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CMS Urged to Extend COVID-19 Flexibilities

The American Hospital Association (AHA) urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to temporarily extend certain waivers and make others permanent beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency, to allow hospitals to provide better and more cost effective care to their patients and communities. For example, AHA recommends permanently expanding the services that can be provided via telehealth and via audio-only connection; the locations where these services can be delivered; and the practitioners and providers, such as hospital outpatient departments, that can bill for these services. It also recommends CMS continue to support increased bed capacity in rural areas in an emergency, optional quality measurement reporting during the pandemic, and delaying certain reporting requirements to focus clinical resources solely on patient care.

AHA said CMS should discontinue the flexibility for physician-owned hospitals (POHs) to increase beds, operating rooms, and procedure rooms in response to a patient surge and require POHs to return to their pre-COVID-19 bed and room counts, as data indicates these hospitals cherry-pick the healthiest and wealthiest patients, resulting in overutilization and high health care costs. In addition, AHA said the agency should not continue to allow independent freestanding emergency departments to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs as hospitals or clinics because they are not built, equipped, or staffed to meet those programs’ requirements, or using non-hospital buildings and spaces for patient care once the increased capacity is no longer necessary.

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