QUESTION: I know that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) have made certain regulatory flexibilities available in response to the public health emergency. Where is the best place to learn more about these changes?
ANSWER: CMS has made available a large amount of material relating to COVID-19 on its website, but it isn’t always easy to find a specific piece of information (or to know when something’s been recently updated). Speaking generally, the best starting point for research is the agency’s “Current Emergencies” page, which you can find here. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but I would first suggest that you focus on the link that says: “Get waiver & flexibility information.” This will take you to a new page that lists “Waivers & flexibilities for health care providers.” You can skim that list to look for items that may be relevant to your question. I often scroll down to the “provider-specific fact sheets” when I am beginning my research.
Be careful of relying too heavily on any one document, unless it is crystal clear. These guidance pages are being updated regularly, and we have encountered numerous situations where the information provided can be misleading or seriously incomplete. Although it’s not always possible, it’s good if you can locate relevant material from a regulation.
If you have a question about a recent change to a policy, be aware that the agency may not yet have an answer for you. Under these circumstances, it may be helpful to check this list of CMS podcast transcripts to look for recent updates. The “CMS Office Hours” calls will often have transcripts that you can search. (If you have the time, you can also call into one of the agency’s “Office Hours” calls directly. Agency representatives make themselves available to answer questions related to the Medicare program.)
These online resources can be a helpful way to answer run-of-the-mill questions, but we would encourage you not to rely on them for more important matters. In those cases, it’s best to seek legal counsel.