Corporate Compliance

Regulations relaxed in wake of hurricane

Compliance Monitor, September 7, 2005

CMS and state governments are relaxing many normal operating procedures to speed the provision of healthcare services to Hurricane Katrina victims.

Many Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries have been evacuated to neighboring states. In most cases, receiving hospitals and nursing homes have no healthcare records, or even verification of the person's Medicare or Medicaid status. In those cases, CMS is waiving the normal requirements for eligibility documentation.

Additionally, CMS is ensuring the following:

  • Healthcare providers that provide services in good faith-but are unable to comply with requirements as a result of the hurricane-will be reimbursed without sanctions, except in cases of fraud or abuse

  • Certain HIPAA privacy requirements will be waived so that providers can talk to family members about a patient's condition even if that patient is unable to grant that permission to the provider

  • Hospitals and other facilities can be flexible in billing for beds once dedicated to one use, but now used for another use.

  • Hospital emergency rooms will not be held liable under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) for transferring patients to other facilities for assessment, if the original facility is in the area where a public health emergency has been declared.
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