The two states hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy—New York and New Jersey—have been issued blanket Section 1135 waivers from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The blanket waivers apply to all providers in New York and New Jersey, eliminating the need for facilities to apply individually for exceptions to regulations.
The blanket waiver enacts a host of temporary flexibilities, in order to allow providers to focus on resident care and storm recovery. Among the permissions, nursing homes can exceed their certified bed capacities for the duration of the emergency to care for the displaced, and home health and hospice staffers are allowed to deliver care in alternate locations.
The three-day hospitalization requirement to qualify for skilled nursing care coverage under Medicare also has been temporarily suspended.
The official waiver eases the documentation regulations for long-term care facilities that were impacted by the storm. The waiver allows for extensions on the submission timeframes for OASIS and MDS 3.0 data sets, and also suspends most surveys during the declared emergency period. The documentation grace period is especially important for LTC facilities that have sustained damage to the electronic records system, have assumed the care of residents from other sites or have evacuated their residents to an acute care facility.
CMS has posted an extensive FAQ section related to the storm on its website.
CMS declared public health emergencies in the state of New York and in eight counties in New Jersey last week, but had only issued a Section 1135 waiver for New York as of Friday. The waivers are retroactive to the official declaration of the emergency date in each state and last for 60 days or until the emergency status is cancelled.
For more information, visit CMS’ public health emergency website: www.cms.gov/emergency