CMS Issues New Rule and Guidance Improving Access to Telehealth and Testing for Medicare Beneficiaries

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On March 30, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an interim final rule and a guidance document that provide hospitals with new flexibilities to help them respond to COVID-19. The interim final rule, titled “Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Policy and Regulatory Revisions in Response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency,” makes several changes to Medicare payment policy that protect the provider workforce from exposure to coronavirus, which include allowing more services to be delivered via telehealth and allowing laboratory technicians to travel to Medicare enrollees’ homes to collect samples for COVID-19 testing.

The guidance document, titled “Hospitals: CMS Flexibilities to Fight COVID-19,” provides an overview of the policies that CMS has implemented or waived that allow hospitals to efficiently respond to COVID-19. Among these are policies allowing hospitals to treat patients at temporary hospital expansion sites, such as those constructed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), waiving paperwork requirements, waiving critical access hospital requirements related to the number of beds available and a patient’s length of stay, and increasing the availability of telehealth in the hospital setting.

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