WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 18, 2020)—AAHomecare has asked the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to enact Medicare coverage policy and documentation requirement changes to help home medical equipment (HME) suppliers more effectively treat patients during the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak. The recommendations, crafted with the assistance of AAHomecare Regulatory Council members and other leaders in the association, will allow HME suppliers to provide care that reduces the strain on our health care infrastructure in the near term, streamline regulatory requirements in light of the challenges of serving patients in the current environment, and support safer working conditions for HME professionals. The recommendations also add a measure of security for the industry by seeking a one-year delay for implementation of the bidding program.
The recommendations in AAHomecare's letter to CMS include:
- Waive chronic respiratory disease coverage requirements for respiratory equipment, medications, and supplies when a patient is diagnosed with COVID-19 or has other acute respiratory conditions during this pandemic.
- Delay implementation of the competitive bidding program for an additional year so that HME suppliers can accommodate the increased numbers of patients needing ventilator and home oxygen services.
- Relax documentation requirements so that the standard written order is the only documentation needed throughout this crisis.
- Allow alternatives for proof of delivery requirements.
- Extend the expiration date of written orders for an additional nine months from the date orders currently expire for recurring medical supply orders and on-going HME rental claims.
- Allow ATP specialty evaluations required for certain power wheelchairs to be conducted via video.
- Waive the requirement for face-to-face encounter when the prescriber does not have the ability to document the encounter via telehealth for new setups and on-going documentation of continued medical need.
- Suspend the Medicare supplier standard related to minimum hours of operation and physical access to facilities during this COVID-19 pandemic, allow HME suppliers to utilize one or more cellphone numbers in lieu of a primary business telephone, and suspend site inspections to allow for DMEPOS employees to focus on increased patient care needs.
- Prioritize the provision of personal protective equipment for suppliers who are providing DMEPOS to COVID-19 patients in their homes.
- Designate DMEPOS suppliers as “essential services” to allow delivery to quarantined areas.
- Suspend all audits from DME MACs, RAC, and SMRC contractors to allow suppliers to focus on their emergency activities.
- Allow on-going equipment rental and supply provision to be paid to suppliers when patients are admitted and the hospital requests they bring their own equipment/supplies due to potential hospital shortages.
- Continue the extension of the current 50/50 blended payment methodology for DME items and services provided in rural areas.
In addition to these recommendations which will allow us to better serve our patients in this crisis, AAHomecare is continuing to engage CMS and major payers, our champions on the Hill, and state Medicaid authorities to advance other HME policy priorities to help us meet these challenges and strengthen the industry going forward.
Our communities across the nation are dealing with a rapidly accelerating crisis that will test our healthcare infrastructure like never before. Now more than ever, we need a strong, well supported HME sector to reduce the need for hospitalizations and other clinical interventions for seniors and individuals with chronic conditions and other significant health issues. AAHomecare is committed to making sure policymakers understand the critical role we play in addressing this challenge and the ones ahead.