CMS Rules for Ambulatory Surgery Centers Used to Expand Hospital Capacity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In what it’s calling “sweeping regulatory changes,” The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued new guidance for ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) used to increase hospital capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. As noted in a fact sheet released March 30, “CMS is allowing healthcare systems and hospitals to provide services in locations beyond their existing walls to help address the urgent need to expand care capacity and to develop sites dedicated to COVID-19 treatment.” As part of this effort, ASCs may also be used to “decant services typically provided by hospitals such as cancer procedures, trauma surgeries and other essential surgeries.”

Becker’s ASC Review summarizes key points within the regulations that are helping to create “hospitals without walls.” The following are of particular importance to MLMIC policyholders (quoted from Becker’s where noted):

  • Services provided by ASCs under these guidelines must be “consistent with a state’s pandemic plan.”
  • “ASCs will be allowed to perform surgeries that could not otherwise have been performed in the ASC setting.”
  • Hospitals can now “bill for telehealth services and for services provided outside of their four walls.”
  • “Despite the changes, surgery centers can still close temporarily during the pandemic. However, the facilities must reopen or terminate their Medicare enrollment contract within 30 days of the public emergency being lifted.”

Up-to-date CMS guidance on a number of topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.

In addition to noting the special coronavirus circumstances described above, MLMLIC encourages policyholders to be aware of these common ASC patient safety concerns.