Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Information for the healthcare workforce in Hospice and Nursing Homes protects staff and vulnerable patients

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is taking action to protect the health and safety of our nation’s patients and providers in the wake of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seniors are at the greatest risk of serious illness due to COVID-19, which is why CMS is providing valuable information to providers who interact with patients in the hospice setting. To protect these vulnerable patients, CMS is amplifying its current health and safety requirements by delivering detailed guidance on the screening, treatment, and transfer procedures healthcare workers must follow when interacting with patients to prevent the spread of COVID-19. CMS is also issuing additional guidance specific to nursing homes to help control and prevent the spread of the virus.

“CMS is laser-focused on protecting patients, no matter where they are receiving care,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “We are receiving up-to-the-minute information about COVID-19 and are in turn, making necessary updates to our requirements and sharing that information with our providers throughout the healthcare system. America’s patients and providers should rest secure knowing that we are taking aggressive precautions to safeguard your health.”

CMS’s guidance supports hospices with information about how to address potential and confirmed COVID-19 cases, including the screening, treatment, and transfer of patients to a higher level of care, when appropriate. In the new guidance, CMS advised all hospices to identify high risk individuals prior to appointments or upon arrival, and immediately begin screening for fever or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as a cough and sore throat, international travel within the last 14 days to restricted countries, and contact with someone with known or suspected COVID-19. Additionally, the guidance calls for the screening of visitors and for potential exposure to the virus. Individuals that answer yes to any of the questions outlined in the guidance or display symptoms should wear facemasks, or as staff, remain at home and not report to work.

Due to the high-risk population of patients in nursing homes, CMS also expanded its guidance to those facilities by issuing a new memorandum today. In addition to the overarching regulations and guidance, the memo offers a list of frequently asked questions with detailed answers about some specific areas related to COVID-19. Several of the topics covered include how nursing homes should monitor or limit visitors who are showing symptoms of illness, monitor, and restrict staff with potential illness, transfer a patient who has tested positive or is suspected of having COVID-19, accepts a patient from a hospital following a COVID-19 diagnosis.

To view, CMS’s guidance for Hospice providers, visit: https://www.cms.gov/medicareprovider-enrollment-and-certificationsurveycertificationgeninfopolicy-and/guidance-infection-control-and-prevention-concerning-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-hospice

To view, CMS’s guidance for Nursing Homes, visit: https://www.cms.gov/medicareprovider-enrollment-and-certificationsurveycertificationgeninfopolicy-and/guidance-infection-control-and-prevention-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-nursing-homes-revised

The guidance issued today, and earlier CMS actions in response to the COVID-19 virus, are part of the ongoing White House Task Force efforts. To keep up with the important work CMS is doing in response to COVID-19, please visit the Current Emergencies Website.

Summary of CMS’s COVID-19 response actions to date:

March 6, 2020, CMS issued frequently asked questions and answers (FAQs) for healthcare providers regarding Medicare payment for a laboratory tests and other services related to the 2019-Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/covid-19-response-news-alert-cms-issues-frequently-asked-questions-assist-medicare-providers

March 5, 2020: CMS issued a second Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) code for certain COVID-19 laboratory tests, in addition to three fact sheets about coverage and benefits for medical services related to COVID-19 for CMS programs.  https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-develops-additional-code-coronavirus-lab-tests

March 4, 2020: CMS issued a call to action to healthcare providers nationwide and offered important guidance to help State Survey Agencies and Accrediting Organizations prioritize their inspections of healthcare. https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-announces-actions-address-spread-coronavirus

February 13, 2020: CMS issued a new HCPCS code for providers and laboratories to test patients for COVID-19.  https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/public-health-news-alert-cms-develops-new-code-coronavirus-lab-test

February 6, 2020: CMS gave CLIA-certified laboratory information about how they can test for SARS-CoV-2. https://www.cms.gov/medicareprovider-enrollment-and-certificationsurveycertificationgeninfopolicy-and-memos-states-and/notification-surveyors-authorization-emergency-use-cdc-2019-novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-real-time-rt

February 6, 2020: CMS issued a memo to help the nation’s healthcare facilities take critical steps to prepare for COVID-19.  https://www.cms.gov/medicareprovider-enrollment-and-certificationsurveycertificationgeninfopolicy-and-memos-states-and/information-healthcare-facilities-concerning-2019-novel-coronavirus-illness-2019-ncov