CMS Issues Blanket Waivers for Those Impacted by Alaska Earthquake

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Hurricanes, fires and now earthquakes. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has once again issued emergency instructions for providers and suppliers who submit claims to Medicare Administrative Contractors. The interim processes are applicable to beneficiaries who were affected by the November 30th Alaska earthquake.

Because Alaska was declared a major disaster area, the Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services declared a public health emergency in affected areas. This allows CMS to waive certain services for those who were evacuated, transferred or otherwise dislocated because of the earthquake.

CMS Blanket Waivers Due to the Alaskan Earthquake

CMS has issued blanket waivers for those areas impacted by the earthquake. The waivers help to prevent access care gaps. Significantly, individual providers do not have to apply for an individual waiver because of the blanket waiver.

The specific blanket waivers are:

  • Skilled nursing facilities. The three-day prior hospitalization requirement for coverage of a stay in these facilities is waived; temporary emergency coverage is provided without the qualifying hospital stay. Also, for those beneficiaries who have exhausted these benefits, coverage is renewed without having to start a new benefit period.

  • Home health agencies. The OASIS timeframes are waived for minimum data set assessments and transmission. Also, Medicare Administrative Contractors may extend the auto-cancellation date of requests for anticipated payment.

  • Critical access hospitals. The requirements that limit the number of beds to 25 and the length of stay to 96 hours are waived for all impacted hospitals.

  • Emergency durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies. The requirements for replacing these types of equipment and supplies, including a face-to-face meeting, a new physician’s order and other documentation are waived where the materials have been lost, destroyed, damaged or rendered unusable.

There are other components to the blanket waiver for housing acute care patients in excluded distinct part units; care for excluded inpatient psychiatric unit patients in the acute care unit of a hospital; care for excluded inpatient rehabilitation unit patients in the acute care unit of a hospital.

Another emergency provision concerns replacement prescription fills. Where the dispensed medication has been lost or damaged, Medicare will pay for a replacement prescription of covered drugs for a quantity up to the amount originally dispenses.

You can read more about these emergency changes in the December 6th MLN Matters® announcement. This CMS website has comprehensive information about all the recent natural disasters and their effects on CMS services.

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