CMS Waives Certain Skilled Nursing Rules in Wake of Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence prompted skilled nursing evacuations throughout the Eastern seaboard, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) this week issued a series of emergency orders to alleviate the pressure on operators and beneficiaries as they weather the storm.

Administrator Seema Verma formally waived the three-day hospital stay requirement for Medicare skilled nursing coverage for residents who were affected by Florence, which made landfall in North Carolina on Friday. Specifically, residents who were evacuated from nursing homes in the emergency zone; prematurely discharged from a hospital to make way for storm victims; or required skilled nursing care as a result of the storm will receive Medicare coverage for the stays regardless of their time spent in a hospital.

Verma approved these waivers for residents of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, the three states primarily affected by the storm, which hit the coast as a Category 1 hurricane — still powerful, but less severe than forecasts earlier in the week had predicted.

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The CMS waivers also apply to residents who had been discharged from a SNF before the storm began. Under non-emergency circumstances, those patients would need to wait 60 days until they could re-enter a skilled setting — also known as “breaking the spell of illness.” These beneficiaries will also receive up to 100 days of Medicare Part A coverage for skilled nursing stays in the three states, so long as they were evacuated from a non-institutional setting during the hurricane and require SNF-level care as a result of the storm.

Written by Alex Spanko

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