CMS: More COVID-19 Response Provider Flexibilities

May 1, 2020

On Thursday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a second set of wide-reaching changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CMS is effectuating changes through a combination of its interim final rule with comment period (IFC) rulemaking authority and its application of 1135 blanket waiver authority, the latter of which having been broadened by the recently passed CARES Act.

Broadly, the changes feature several augmentations of previously instituted reforms (e.g., clarifying or modifying billing rules for new temporary services), as well as brand new policies. Of note, CMS is:

  • Instituting changes aimed at improving diagnostic testing, including flexibilities around ordering COVID-19 tests for beneficiaries and covering certain serology tests;   
  • Instituting new policies allowing payment for outpatient hospital services in temporary expansion locations (e.g., parking lot tents);   
  • Making certain healthcare workforce modifications and eliminating several administrative requirements that could delay care;   
  • Making even more expansive changes to current telehealth regulations to support this modality during the public health emergency (e.g., expanding the list of eligible providers that can furnish telehealth services, as well as broadening the list of services that providers can furnish via audio-only technologies (i.e., telephones); expediting the process by which CMS adds new services to the approved Medicare telehealth list through using a sub-regulatory process that bypasses the standard notice and comment procedures.

For more information, see a detailed IHA overview memo.