CMS Issues COVID-19 Guidance for Home Health Agencies and State Survey Agencies

Topics: Announcements, Federal News, HCBS, Medicaid,

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued additional guidance to home health agencies in response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The memoranda were developed from frequently asked questions the agency has received about interacting with patients amid COVID-19. The guidance offers information to healthcare workers on the screening, treatment and transfer procedures to follow when interacting with patients.

The guidance to home health agencies echoes recommendations set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with specific considerations of when it is safe to treat patients at home, when patients should be considered for hospitalization and recommendations for family member exposure, when evaluating and caring for patients with known or suspected COVID-19. CMS recommends home health agencies regularly monitor patients for any symptoms of the virus, and communicate effectively with patients, family members and other caregivers so that the entire care team understands a patient’s individual needs and goals of care. CMS’s guidance ends with a frequently asked question section offering answers to information that will ensure safe, quality care in the face of COVID-19.

CMS also sent a memorandum to State Survey Agencies (SAs) clarifying the application of CMS policies in light of recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance expanding the types of facemasks healthcare workers may use in situations involving COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. The memo aligns CMS policy with the recent CDC and FDA in light of COVID-19 and supply demands by stating that facemasks, which protect the wearer from splashes and sprays, are an acceptable temporary alternative to respirators, which filter the air, for most medical services until demand for respirators lessens. CMS is also alerting state surveyors that they are not required – on a temporary basis – to validate the date of a facility’s last annual test of the fit of N95 masks worn by workers in Medicare- and Medicaid-certified facilities. CMS is temporarily suspending surveyor validation of the test to minimize the discarded masks associated with such testing.FMI: To view, CMS’s guidance for home health providers, visit: https://www.cms.gov/medicareprovider-enrollment-and-certificationsurveycertificationgeninfopolicy-and/guidance-infection-control-and-prevention-concerning-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-home-health

The CMS Memorandum to SAs can be found at https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-20-17-all.pdf