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Medicare’s “Hospitals Without Walls” Policy Takes Effect Immediately

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced a new initiative this week to allow hospitals to care for patients and bill Medicare and other government payors when they provide services outside traditional hospital settings. This allows for the use of ambulatory surgery centers that have canceled elective surgeries to be used for COVID-19 patient care. In addition, other non-hospital buildings approved by the state also can be used to help expand patient care areas.

As a result of the new “Hospitals Without Walls” initiative, hospitals, laboratories, and other providers now will be permitted to test for COVID-19 in a wider variety of places, including community-based settings outside of the hospital or in a patient’s home. This flexibility permits hospitals to free up emergency room space and better protect both health care workers and patients with drive-through and off-campus testing sites.

This initiative will remain in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency and is the latest in a series of federal actions intended to alleviate any unnecessary burden on hospitals and health systems as they continue to focus on the increasing number of COVID-19 patients in their communities.

HAP continues to advocate for increased financial support for hospitals, in addition to supporting efforts that minimize administrative burden and other activities not directly focused on patient care. HAP has proposed at state Healthcare Coronavirus Emergency Fund to support hospitals in the response to COVID-19 including providing funding to support child care for health care workers and to improve and adapt health care infrastructure to handle long-term needs.

For more information about HAP’s advocacy efforts, please contact Kate Slatt, vice president, innovative payment and care delivery.

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