Months into the pandemic, COVID-19 testing has now become commonplace in several medical environments, including but not limited to hospice care facilities. During the summer, for example, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released an interim final rule that requires all hospice staff that is visiting a nursing home to undergo a COVID-19 test.1 This rule also applies to any individuals employed by the facility, any individuals that have arrangements to provide services for the facility and any individuals volunteering at the facility.” 1
Depending on the prevalence of the virus in different areas, standard COVID testing procedures are now required to prevent the spread of infection in the health care community. So, how does this tie in to hospice care? And what can we expect for future preventative measures to curb and minimize the high rate of infection?
Rapid COVID-19 Testing: Is It Available To Hospices?
Protecting the elderly is paramount as COVID infection and mortality rates rise at a staggering rate. This has made it even more essential to make virus testing available to all. As it is, millions of COVID-19 testing kits have been distributed to various populations in the United States, including a good portion to hospices and nursing homes.
In partnership with the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced plans to provide rapid point-of-care tests to eligible hospice providers. These tests will be sent to facilities that have identified as having a CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvements) certificate of waiver in areas of high spread. Currently, there are 150 million rapid Abbot BinaxNOW COVID-19 tests being distributed all across the country. Test results can be provided in 15 minutes or less. 2
HHS Secretary, Alex Azar, noted that, “By strategically distributing 150 million of these tests to where they’re needed most, we can track the virus like never before and protect millions of Americans at risk in especially vulnerable situations.” 3
What’s Ahead with COVID Prevention and Hospices
In October, the CMS released an interim final rule establishing that once a vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is expected to be covered under Medicare as a preventative measure to beneficiaries. 4 Those in the Original Medicare plan or Medicare Advantage will receive the vaccine at no cost to them.
Although it remains to be seen what lies ahead with the pandemic, it’s important that hospices are granted easy accessibility to COVID testing supplies for their patients and staff. Taking everybody’s safety and health seriously is how we can best navigate these unpredictable times, while ensuring those in hospice communities stay protected and looked after.
Keep your hospice operations running smoothly with our Optima Hospice EHR solution.
5 Key Stressors Hospice Professionals Face, With Guidance for Support
By Joy Berger, DMA, FT, BCC, MT-BC, Founder and CEO of Composing Life out of Loss
1 Hospice News, “CMS to Require COVID Tests for Hospice Staff Visiting Nursing Homes,” September 1, 2020.
2 Home Care Association of New York State, “Rapid COVID Test to be Available for Home Care, Hospice,” September 28, 2020.
3 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Trump Administration Will Deploy 150 Million Rapid Tests in 2020,” August 27, 2020.
4 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “Hospice: CMS Flexibilities to Fight COVID-19,” November 4, 2020.