CMS Suspends Rules to Maximize Healthcare Workers

April 10, 2020

Yesterday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) temporarily suspended a number of rules so that hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities can boost their frontline medical staffs as they fight to save lives during the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

CMS says these changes, effective immediately, impact doctors, nurses, and other clinicians nationwide, and focus on reducing supervision and certification requirements so that practitioners can be hired quickly and perform work to the fullest extent of their licenses. The new waivers sharply expand the workforce flexibilities CMS announced on March 30.

Outlined in a press release, CMS’ action allows for:

  • Doctors to now directly care for patients at rural hospitals, across state lines if necessary, via phone, radio, or online communication, without having to be physically present. Remotely located physicians, coordinating with nurse practitioners at rural facilities, will provide staffs at such facilities additional flexibility to meet the needs of their patients;   
  • Nurse practitioners, in addition to physicians, to now perform some medical exams on Medicare patients at skilled nursing facilities so that patient needs, whether COVID-19 related or not, continue to be met in the face of increased care demands;   
  • Occupational therapists from home health agencies to now perform initial assessments on certain homebound patients, allowing home health services to start sooner and freeing home-health nurses to do more direct patient care; and   
  • Hospice nurses to be relieved of hospice aide in-service training tasks so they can spend more time with patients.

“It’s all hands on deck during this crisis,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “All frontline medical professionals need to be able to work at the highest level they were trained for. CMS is making sure there are no regulatory obstacles to increasing the medical workforce to handle the patient surge during the COVID pandemic.”

See more in a CMS fact sheet. An IHA fact sheet is available here.