Hospitals Must Report COVID Data or Be Penalized
August 26, 2020 – The US Department of Health and Human Services is again changing COVID-19 reporting requirements for hospitals, angering the two major US hospital associations.
The rule, released Aug. 25 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, is effective immediately, without any possibility of comment or revision. CMS said the public health emergency was reason enough to skip the normal bureaucratic process.
Hospitals that do not comply with the new regulations could be kicked out of Medicare and Medicaid programs. CMS estimates that 6,200 hospitals participate in these two federal health programs.
“These new rules represent a dramatic acceleration in our efforts to track and control the spread of COVID-19,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. “Communicating test results and other data are vital tools in controlling the spread of the virus and giving frontline providers what they need to fight it,” she said.
But the American Hospital Association was dismayed. “This disturbing decision, announced in its final form without consultation, or the possibility of providing feedback through appropriate administrative procedures before it becomes effective, could compromise access to care and leave patients and patients communities without vital health services from their local hospital during a pandemic, “AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack said in a statement.
Chip Kahn, President and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, tweeted that hospitals had worked in good faith with the federal government on reporting.
“Now the agency is hiding the industry with mandatory reporting rules. Not only are the rules unverified, but a sudden change could jeopardize patient care,” Kahn tweeted. “The action of the CMS must be canceled.”
Six changes since February
Pollack said hospitals and health care systems have tried to meet federal requirements “under very difficult circumstances, despite the government’s ever-changing demands on the release of data.”
He noted that the federal government has “made at least six changes to the way they want hospitals to report data” since February.
The latest change came in mid-July, when hospitals were told they would no longer be reporting data to the CDC. Instead, they were asked to submit to a new portal run by a private contractor, TeleTracking.
Since then, the data displayed on the Department of Health and Social Services’ COVID-19 hospital reports dashboard has rarely been up to date. Hospitals and health officials struggled to switch to a new system. The AHA said that HHS reported that even so, 94% of hospitals are reporting information.
A stick, not a carrot
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in their regulations that they had hoped to fine hospitals that did not comply, but determined it would not be legal. Instead, if facilities don’t participate, they cannot participate in Medicare and Medicaid.
Hospitals will be required to report daily on a variety of measures, including the number of patients confirmed or suspected positive for COVID-19, the number of intensive care unit beds occupied, and the availability of essential supplies and equipment, such as fans and staff. protective equipment (PPE). All facilities will also be required to report the results of internal COVID testing.
The CMS said in the rule that it aimed to “make data submission as user-friendly as possible in order to reduce the pressure and burden on hospitals and [critical access hospitals] currently face requests for data from a multitude of federal, state, local and private entities. “
The rule will also require all labs that perform COVID-19 diagnoses – those in nursing homes and hospitals, as well as private labs – to report the results daily to HHS. Laboratories have 3 weeks to start reporting. After that, CMS will fine the non-compliant labs $ 1,000 on the first day and $ 500 per day after that.
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