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Trump Administration Clears Path to Resume Elective Procedures

April 20, 2020, 4:28 PM

The Trump administration is touting its blueprint to resume nonessential medical procedures and elective surgeries in areas where the Covid-19 threat has subsided.

The new guidelines issued Sunday night by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would allow communities that are in Phase 1 of the Trump administration’s blueprint for re-opening the economy to lift restrictions imposed on elective, non-emergency medical procedures.

The ban on elective procedures has hurt revenue and caused financial hardship at hospitals that are struggling to handle the outbreak. The policy has also reduced patient volume at physician practices and ambulatory surgery centers, causing some to shut down or lay off staff.

Many areas of the country are seeing fewer Covid-19 cases and low incidence of the virus, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said Monday in a telephone briefing with reporters. “So we’re providing a roadmap for providers to offer some forms of non-coronavirus related care to asymptomatic patients.”

Before entering Phase 1, however, local communities must show a 14-day decline in influenza-like illnesses, documented Covid-19 cases, and positive tests for the virus. In addition, area hospitals must be able to adequately treat all patients and have robust testing of health-care workers.

State and local officials will have wide latitude to decide when and whether it’s safe to resume elective procedures, Verma said. They should work in collaboration with providers to “assess the situation on the ground and decide which services they’re going to allow,” Verma said.

In addition to being able to handle surges in Covid-19 cases if elective procedures resume, health-care systems must also have the supplies and protective gear needed to perform nonessential services and must have a plan to conserve supplies and screen patients and staff for coronavirus, Verma said.

“They should also have plans to clean facilities and maintain social distancing inside the facilities so that patients feel safe,” she added.

The guidelines were informed by discussions with hospital associations and medical specialty groups, Verma said. Most of the nation’s hospitals are reporting about 50% unused capacity available, she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Pugh in Washington at tpugh@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Brent Bierman at bbierman@bloomberglaw.com

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