HHS threatens to withhold funding from hospitals that fail to report COVID-19 data

CMS released guidance Oct. 6 on how it will implement an interim final rule that requires hospitals to report data about COVID-19 and influenza patients in order to participate in the Medicare program. 

Hospitals will be given 14 weeks to comply with reporting requirements, and the department will work with hospitals to bring them into compliance during that time, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said on an Oct. 6 call with reporters, according to CNBC

The data requested from hospitals include the number of COVID-19 patients and availability of certain equipment like ventilators. The guidance includes new reporting requirements that begin Nov. 1 for certain data on influenza patients and a new requirement that psychiatric and rehabilitation hospitals report data only once per week, according to the American Hospital Association. 

Ms. Verma said several steps will be taken before a hospital would lose the ability to participate in Medicare. 

The initial letters for non-compliance will start going out Oct. 7. Three weeks after the initial notification, warning letters will be sent. Hospitals that remain noncompliant will then be sent a letter informing them that they will be terminated from the Medicare program unless they come in compliance within 30 days, according to the AHA. 

"Tying data reporting to participation in the Medicare program remains an overly heavy-handed approach that could jeopardize access to hospital care for all Americans," AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack said in a statement. "The impact of barring hospitals from Medicare and Medicaid has the potential to harm more than those program's enrollees, and threatens more than just the life-saving care hospitals are providing to COVID-19 patients. The reality is many hospitals could not keep their doors open should they no longer receive payment from Medicare and Medicaid, affecting care for all Americans in the midst of a global pandemic."

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