On Saturday, following the devastation of post-tropical storm Sandy last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued blanket waivers of particular requirements that include all hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, hospice and end-stage renal disease facilities in the areas of New York and New Jersey that were strongly affected by the storm.
In addition, on Nov. 3, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius temporarily waived or modified certain HIPAA and Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program requirements as a consequence of the hurricane. This allows states or individual healthcare providers to request a waiver of those requirements by emailing their CMS Regional Office or State Survey Agency, and the request must describe the provider and its justification for a waiver.
The blanket waivers for healthcare organizations in the certain areas of New York and New Jersey include the following requirements:
- Hospitals and nursing homes can process certified bed increases.
- CMS has suspended onsite survey activities, except for investigations of immediate jeopardy allegations, in areas impacted by the storm.CMS
- Skilled nursing facilities do not need a three-day prior hospitalization for coverage of a stay at the facility.
- The timeframe requirements for Minimum Data Set assessments and transmission are waived for skilled nursing facilities.
- Outcome Assessment Information Set transmission timeframes are waived for all home health agencies.
- Home health agencies are exempt from two-week aide supervision requirements by a registered nurse.
- Hospice programs do not need supervision of hospice aides every 14 days by a registered nurse.
- Home health and hospice agencies may provide services in a shelter or alternate location for patients displaced by the storm.
- Service for end-stage renal disease patients who cannot obtain their regularly scheduled dialysis treatment at a certified ESRD facility and have a medical need to receive an unscheduled or emergency dialysis session in an outpatient hospital setting is payable under the outpatient prospective payment system.
CMS noted that individual facilities do not need to apply to CMS to take advantage of the waivers.