Hospitals will be able to care for Covid-19 patients in same-day surgery centers, hotels, dorms, and other locations, under changes announced Monday.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said it is temporarily waiving regulations to give hospitals “maximum flexibility” to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The waived regulations will last as long as the public health emergency declaration does, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a call with reporters.
They will be able to put up new facilities to increase bed capacity. Public health researchers are concerned there will be a shortage of beds if the virus continues to spread. Hospitals will also be able to use those alternative facilities to care for patients without Covid-19.
This flexibility will allow hospitals to triage patients and send them to the best place for them to be cared for, Verma said on the call.
“This unprecedented temporary relaxation in regulation will help the healthcare system deal with patient surges by giving it tools and support to create non-traditional care sites and staff them quickly,” Verma said in a statement.
Hospitals will also be able to increase their staffing capacity under the waivers, which may be key if physicians begin falling ill. They will be able to temporarily employ private practice doctors and their staffs, and physician assistants and nurse practitioners will also be able to order tests and medications that typically require a doctor’s order.
Surgery centers that work in conjunction with a local hospital and comply with their state’s pandemic plan will be paid the same rate as hospitals, Verma said on the call.
Labs and hospitals will also be able to bill Medicare for Covid-19 tests and screening outside of the hospital.
Doctors will also be able to use telehealth to see their patients for an additional 80 services at the same rates as an in-person visit. Hospitals will not need to meet Medicare paperwork requirements, and they will be able to provide medical staffs with multiple daily meals, laundry services, or child care.
“We owe those frontline workers every ounce of flexibility we can muster,” Verma said.