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  • CMS Releases a Burden Reduction Rule That Affects a Wide Range of Facilities, Settings

    In this review: Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Regulatory Provisions to Promote Program Efficiency, Transparency, and Burden Reduction; Fire Safety Requirements for Certain Dialysis Facilities; Hospital and Critical Access Hospital (CAH) Changes to Promote Innovation, Flexibility, and Improvement in Patient Care (final rule)
    Effective date: November 29, 2019, for most provisions; March 30, 2020, for implementation of hospital and critical-access hospital (CAH) antibiotic programs; March 30, 2021, for changes to Quality Assessment and Performance Improvement Programs in critical access hospitals
    CMS Press Release
    CMS Fact Sheet

    The big picture: An omnibus rule that could ease some regulatory burdens
    The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has released a final rule aimed at reducing Medicare- and Medicaid-related regulatory burdens in a range of settings, from hospitals to home health care. And for the most part, the rule hits its target.

    The final rule includes provisions related to outpatient rehabilitation facilities, home health agencies, ambulatory surgical centers, hospitals, CAHs, psychiatric hospitals, transplant centers, X-rays, community mental health clinics, hospice care, and more. For the most part, the changes either lift or relax requirements, giving facilities more leeway in meeting reporting and other duties. CMS estimates the changes will save providers 4.4 million hours of paperwork time and result in $800 million in savings annually.

    Most provisions in the rule go into effect November 29, 2019.

    Notable in the final rule

    • Relaxed emergency preparedness requirements for most settings—except long-term care facilities (LTCs). The new rule changes a mandate for an annual self-review of a provider's or supplier's emergency program to every other year, except for LTCs, which will still have to submit reviews every year. The move to biennial requirements is also applied to training and testing around emergency preparedness (again, with the exception of LTCs), and allows providers to choose the type of test they administer—either a community-based full-scale test, or a facility-based exercise.

    CMS will also lift a requirement that Medicare and Medicaid providers and suppliers must document efforts to contact local, tribal, regional, state, and federal emergency preparedness officials, as well as document participation in "collaborative and cooperative planning efforts."

    • Less burdensome evaluation rules for home health aides, and more limited requirements around notifying home health patients of their rights. The final rule also gives home health agencies (HHAs) more latitude in how they assess the competencies of aides to allow for a "simulation" on a patient or "pseudo patient." In addition, aides who are found to be deficient in certain skills will need to undergo retraining and revaluation only on those particular skills, and be subject to a comprehensive process.

    HHAs will also be operating under less rigid rules about notification of patient rights: instead of requiring verbal notification of all patient rights, providers will be required to provide notification only of rights related to Medicare, Medicaid, or other federal programs, as well as potential patient liabilities as described in the Social Security Act.

    Comprehensive outpatient rehab facilities get a break on utilization review plans. The new rule reduces the frequency of utilization reviews from quarterly to annually.

    • More flexible requirements for hospitals around the use of comprehensive medical histories and physical examinations (H&P) presurgery/preprocedure. Instead of requiring H&P, hospitals will be permitted to use a presurgery/preprocedure assessment if, in the hospital's opinion, that's the appropriate way to go. The assessment option must be well-documented, and hospitals must consider the patient's age, diagnoses, type and number of procedures to be performed, standards of practice related to specific patients and procedures, and all relevant state and local laws.
    • Fewer requirements for hospitals and CAHs that provide swing beds, and easier reporting requirements for CAHs. The new rule changes requirements for swing bed providers—hospitals and CAHs that designate some of their beds for skilled nursing facility care—in a few ways: CMS is removing requirements that the facilities offer patients opportunities to "perform services for the facilities" if they choose, as well as requirements mandating ongoing activity programs, a full-time social worker for facilities with more than 120 beds, and the provision of 24-hour emergency dental care.

    CAHs will see some lessened reporting burdens as well—they will no longer be required to disclose the names of people with a financial interest in a CAH, and a current annual requirement to conduct a policy and procedures review will be changed to every other year.

    APTA's efforts, and the possibility of more to come
    The new rule is part of CMS' broad "patients over paperwork" initiative that continues to explore ways to decrease the regulatory burden on facilities and individual providers, and APTA has seized every opportunity to provide input to CMS on the topic. The latest rule reflects only some of the areas addressed by the association, according to Kara Gainer, APTA's director of regulatory affairs.

    "As we've done in nearly every call for comment on administrative burden, APTA and individual PTs have highlighted multiple areas that we think are in need of change," Gainer said. "This rule is a step in the right direction, but there are many more steps that should be taken if CMS truly wants to fulfill its commitment to putting patients over paperwork."

    APTA will provide information on how to comply with the new requirements as it becomes available.

    Want to find out more about the new rule? CMS is holding a national stakeholder call on the burden reduction rule on Thursday, October 3, 2019, from 1:00 pm-2:00pm ET. To join in, call 1-888-455-1397 and use conference ID 4114189. TTY Communications Relay Services are available for the hearing or speech- impaired. For TTY services dial 7-1-1 or 1-800-855-2880. A Relay Communications Assistant will help.

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