The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) has written a letter to Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) seeking regulatory relief for home health providers located in Puerto Rico. Specifically, NAHC is requesting that CMS further delay the implementation date for the home health conditions of participation (HHCoPs) by an additional six months, until July 13, 2018, for agencies affected by Hurricane Maria.
CMS issued a final rule entitled “Medicare and Medicaid Programs: Conditions of Participation for Home Health Agencies” published in the Federal Register on January 13, 2017. The published effective date for the final rule was July 13, 2017, and a new rule delays the effective date until January 13, 2018. An extension in the effective date had been sought by the home health community as the changes required are extensive and costly.
In the case of Puerto Rico, recovery efforts from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria are expected to continue for many more months. The destruction to the infrastructure (no electricity, running water, etc.) in many regions throughout the island make it nearly impossible to carry out continuity of existing business plans much less implement new policies, procedures, and operations required by the sweeping regulatory changes in the revised HHCoPs.
To compound the problem, CMS just recently released a draft of the new HHCoP interpretive guidelines for public comment with the expectation that a final version will not be available until December. This time frame is insufficient for the typical home health agency to adopt policies and processes, but for home health providers in Puerto Rico a delay in the implementation date is imperative if compliance expectations are to be met.
Please stay tuned to NAHC Report, as we will update this story as developments warrant.