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Health Law Monitor

CMS Issues Recommendation to Re-Open Health Care Systems with Low Incidence of COVID-19

April 20, 2020

By: Alaina N. Crislip and Nicole Johns Barker

A decline in COVID-19 cases and stabilization has prompted conversation regarding Phase 1 in the Whitehouse’s Guidelines for Opening Up America. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidelines for gradually re-opening health care systems to provide essential non-COVID-19 care to patients in those areas with low, or relatively low and stable incidence of COVID-19. The guidelines will only apply to those states or regions that have passed the Gating Criteria, as identified in the Whitehouse’s Guidelines for Opening Up American Again and are ready to proceed to Phase 1 for re-opening. Each state and locality should review the guidelines and decide whether implementation of the guidelines is appropriate for their communities.

The CMS guidelines require the select communities and facilities to continually evaluate and prepare for a potential surge even as the guidelines allow select communities and facilities to safely extend in-person non-emergent care. Among the key provisions of the CMS guidelines are the requirements that healthcare systems and facilities utilize telehealth when appropriate and ensure sufficient resources are available to the facilities across phases of care, including PPE, healthy workforce, facilities, supplies, testing capacity, and post-acute care, without jeopardizing surge capacity.  

The Guidelines for Opening Up America Again can be found at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/#criteria

The CMS Recommendations for Re-Opening Facilities to Provide Non-Emergent Non-COVID Healthcare –  Phase I can be found at: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/covid-flexibility-reopen-essential-non-covid-services.pdf

The CMS also issued guidelines for MLN: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/se20016.pdf

CMS issued a memorandum entitled “Upcoming Requirements for Notification of Confirmed COVID-19 (or COVID‑19 Persons under Investigation) Among Residents and Staff in Nursing Homes” that outlines the regulations CMS intends to issue regarding communicable disease reporting to ensure tracking, response and mitigation of COVID-19 in nursing homes.


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