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CMS Moves to Assist Providers to Combat COVID-19 Virus

With the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) quickly moves to protect patients in hospitals and residents in nursing facilities by ensuring health care facilities have up-to-date information to adequately respond to the spread of the virus while making it clear to providers that as always, CMS will hold them accountable for effective infection control standards.

Stopping the spread of the COVID-19 Virus. Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Just days ago, the  Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for overseeing the Medicare and Medicaid programs, announced actions to combat the spread of the Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) by calling health care providers to activate infection control practices (which they are required to maintain at all times. The agency also issues guidance to inspectors to allow them to focus their energies on addressing the spread of COVID-19 and other health and safety threats, like allegations of abuse.

CMS requires facilities to maintain infection control and prevention policies as a condition for participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. CMS has also issued three memoranda to State Survey Agencies, State Survey Agency directors and Accrediting Organizations – to inspect nursing homes across the country.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma, considers the action of her agency, taken together, “as a call to action across the health care system.” She noted that “all health care providers must immediately review their procedures to ensure compliance with CMS’ infection control requirements, as well as the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” she says.

Stopping the Spread of the Virus

Verma recognized the proactive efforts being taken by nursing home and hospital associations in working to stop the spread of the virus, noting that they are providing provide up-to-the-minute information to their member facilities. “We must continue working together to keep American patients and residents safe and healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19,” she says.

CMS’s first memorandum provides important detail with respect to the temporary focus of surveys on infection control and other emergent issues. In addition to the focused inspections, statutorily-required inspections will also continue in the 15,000 nursing homes across the country using the approximately 8,200 state survey agency surveyors.

The memorandum also includes protocols for the inspection process in situations in which COVID-19 is identified or suspected. These protocols include working closely with CMS regional offices, coordinating with CDC, and other relevant agencies at all levels of government. The agency is also providing key guidance related to inspectors’ usage of adequate personal protective equipment.

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