CMS Releases Recommendations on Non-Essential Procedures During COVID-19 Response

On March 18, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that all elective surgeries, non-essential medical, surgical, and dental procedures be delayed during the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This will not only preserve equipment but also free up our healthcare workforce to care for the patients who are most in need.

What does this mean? We posed this question to Joshua Hunter, Medicare Specialist at Takacs McGinnis. “CMS has made a major move by limiting non-essential medical care,” said Joshua. “This is meant to both reduce exposure and increase the availability of medical professionals. As COVID-19 spreads, we are going to need all hands on deck.”

As more healthcare providers are increasingly being asked to assist with the COVID-19 response, it is critical that they consider whether non-essential surgeries and procedures can be delayed so they can preserve personal protective equipment (PPE), beds, and ventilators. 

According to Joshua, this CMS directive does not affect major medical incidents or treatments. “Those will go on as planned,” Joshua stressed. “However, if you are scheduled for non-essential care or routine care, it will be your responsibility to call ahead of time or reschedule. Follow the golden rule for healthcare: do not wait and be proactive. No one knows your health better than you.”

Additionally, as states and the nation as a whole work towards limiting the spread of COVID-19, healthcare providers are being asked to encourage their patients to remain home, unless there is an emergency, to protect others while also limiting their exposure to the virus. They should also urge patients to follow the President’s recently issued guidelines to help slow the spread of the virus.

The recommendations provide a framework for hospitals and clinicians to implement immediately during the COVID-19 response. The recommendations outline factors that should be considered for postponing elective surgeries, and non-essential medical, surgical, and dental procedures. Those factors include patient risk factors, availability of beds, staff and PPE, and the urgency of the procedure. This will help providers to focus on addressing more urgent cases and preserve resources needed for the COVID-19 response. The decision about proceeding with non-essential surgeries and procedures will be made at the local level by the clinician, patient, hospital, and state and local health departments.

If you’re interested in reading the full text of the CMS recommendations, you can find it here: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/31820-cms-adult-elective-surgery-and-procedures-recommendations.pdf.

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