The article below is a top story from this week's ACTION newsletter—Care Providers of Minnesota's weekly newsletter for members. The newsletter focuses on current legislative issues, regulations, long-term care trends, and other Association news. Each Thursday evening, it is delivered to your inbox. To sign up for ACTION, contact Lisa Foss Olson (952-851-2483). To learn more about membership, visit our Become a Member page.

CMS posts interim final rule on COVID-19 surveillance reporting & testing requirements

 By Patti Cullen, CAE |  August 27, 2020  |  SNF/NF providers

On August 25, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an interim final rule (201 pages long) with a comment period that revises regulations in several areas for long-term care facilities and other providers. View the CMS press release here. Importantly, this rule establishes a new requirement for long-term care facilities for COVID-19 testing of residents and staff. CMS did not establish a specific frequency or criteria for testing in the rule but listed potential criteria that will be considered and addressed further in guidance. The regulations are effective immediately upon their publication at the Office of the Federal Register, which has not occurred yet. Most of the new regulations are applicable only for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. CMS is providing a 60-day comment period for public input on these requirements. Below is high-level summary of the new testing requirements:

  • A requirement to test all staff and residents will be added to infection control regulations at §483.80
    • This includes volunteers and contractors physically working at the facility (such as hospice) but does not apply to staff working off-site
  • The rule does not require testing of surveyors and ombudsmen but notes that state agencies are responsible for ensuring surveyors are following CDC guidance for infection prevention and refraining or returning to work
  • CMS did not establish a specific frequency or criteria for testing at this point, but indicated that it may include (but is not limited to): testing frequency; criteria for conducting testing of asymptomatic individuals, such as the positivity rate of COVID-19 in a county; and response time for test results
    • Note: CMS specifically stated they are soliciting comments on the criteria for testing frequency
  • Facilities have flexibility in the manner resident and staff testing can be conducted, as long as it is consistent with nationally recognized standards and meet the response time for test results specified by the secretary

Care Providers of Minnesota has already initiated discussions with representatives at the Minnesota Department of Health regarding what this new rule means and how it will be implemented. The obvious missing element of the published rule is the threshold of COVID-19 cases in a geographic area that would trigger various required frequency of testing. We will be monitoring CMS bulletins which is where we anticipate this important element will be published. Watch for more details regarding the final interim rule as they are released. 

Patti Cullen, CAE  |  President/CEO  |  |  952-851-2487

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Care Providers of Minnesota is a non-profit membership association with the mission to Empower Members to Performance Excellence. Our 900+ members across Minnesota represent non-profit and for-profit organizations providing services along the full spectrum of post-acute care and long-term services and support. We are the state affiliate for the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, and with our national partners we provide solutions for quality care.

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