The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provides emergency assistance and healthcare response for individuals, families, and businesses affected by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

To effectively manage through this challenging time, providers should understand CMS’s Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payments Plan and the impact of the CARES Act on home health and hospice.

Relief for the U.S. Healthcare System

  • Provides additional funding for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19
  • Limits liability for volunteer healthcare professionals
  • Prioritizes Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review of certain drugs
  • Allows emergency use of certain diagnostic tests that are not approved by the FDA
  • Expands health-insurance coverage for diagnostic testing and requires coverage for preventative services and vaccines (Aetna and CIGNA, more to follow)

Revises other provisions regarding the medical supply chain, the national stockpile, the healthcare workforce, the Healthy Start program, telehealth services, nutrition services, Medicare, and Medicaid.

CMS Interim Final Rule

An unprecedented array of temporary regulatory waivers and new rules to equip the American healthcare system with maximum flexibility to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These temporary changes will apply immediately across the entire U.S. healthcare system for the duration of the emergency declaration.

The goals of these actions are to:

  • Ensure local hospitals and health systems have the capacity to handle a potential surge through temporary expansion sites (CMS Hospital Without Walls)
  • Remove barriers for physicians, nurses, and other clinicians to be readily hired from within the community or from other states to meet workforce demand
  • Increase access to telehealth to ensure Medicaid patients have access to MDs and clinicians while keeping patients safe at home
  • Expand in-place testing at home or in community-based settings
  • Put patients over paperwork: temporary provider relief from paperwork, reporting and audit requirements to focus on providing care to COVID-19 Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries

CARES Act Relief for Providers

Offers home-based providers favorable regulatory relief on both a temporary and permanent basis.

  1. Allows non-physicians to certify home health services moving forward. Allows nurse practitioners (NPs), physician assistants (PAs) and clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) the ability to certify home health permanently.

  2. Encourages the use of telehealth in home healthcare but does not yet provide Medicare reimbursement for this equipment. An emergency rule making its way through the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) could enable providers the chance to be compensated for telehealth services. Under Medicare, roadblocks to reimbursement have kept providers from investing heavily in telehealth until now.

  3. Expanded Accelerated and Advance Payment Program to Medicare providers

  4. Suspends 2% Medicare sequestration (ongoing reimbursement rate cut), effectively boosting home health and hospice reimbursement during an 8-month period to December 31

  5. May relax the current homebound restrictions for home health

  6. Creates a $100 billion healthcare fund for recovering COVID-19 costs

  7. Increases Medicare reimbursement to providers for taking care of COVID-19 patients

Resource Links

CARES Act (Entire Bill)

CARES Act Fact Sheet for Accelerated and Advance Payment

Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance

Home Health Care News – CARES Act