The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released its first phase of recommendations regarding reopening medical facilities for the provision of non-emergent procedures unrelated to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
CMS’ guidance focuses on regions of the country with low and stable incidence of COVID-19. For those regions, these new recommendations relax CMS’ guidelines issued several weeks ago for postponing adult non-essential medical, surgical and dental procedures, as discussed in McGuireWoods’ March 20, 2020, alert. In a statement accompanying this new guidance, CMS Administrator Seema Verma noted that a more “tailored and flexible approach” is now appropriate when weighing whether restrictions on non-essential procedures should continue, given that some areas of the country are experiencing fewer cases of the virus.
CMS’ recommendations take into account the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s “Opening Up America Again” three-phased approach (White House Plan), which provides guidelines to assist state and local officials in reopening their economies in light of the pandemic. As part of Phase 1 of the White House Plan, CMS’ guidelines outline how facilities in regions with low and stable rates of COVID-19 could begin to reopen and provide non-emergent, non-COVID-19 healthcare services to patients in an effort to meet ongoing healthcare needs (e.g., chronic disease care, elective procedural care and preventative care) that are currently being deferred. Accordingly, states or regions that have passed the State or Regional Gating Criteria under the White House Plan (e.g., downward trajectory of COVID-19-like cases within a 14-day period and robust testing programs in place for at-risk healthcare workers) may utilize these new recommendations when determining whether to reopen facilities and provide non-emergent, non-COVID-19 healthcare services.
Healthcare providers should consider the following when reviewing CMS’ new recommendations, which provide welcome flexibility to restart “non-essential” procedures.