CMS creates web portal for questions about 1135 waivers, PHE
by A.J. Plunkett (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Your blanket waivers surrounding healthcare operations during the current COVID-19 crisis are now good through April 21, 2021. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II has extended the Public Health Emergency (PHE), first declared almost a full year ago, for another 90 days, effective January 21.
CMS has also tried to make it easier to ask for an 1135 waiver that is not part of the now 42-page list of blanket regulatory flexibilities that the federal agency instituted to help hospitals and other facilities cope with the surge of COVID-19 patients.
There is now a CMS PHE Emergency Web Portal “designed to reduce burden and streamline the submissions of 1135 waiver requests/inquiries in a simple-to-use format,” using a computer or mobile device with Chrome or Firefox as the preferred browser, according to the announcement posted on CMS’ webpage of memos to state and regional offices.
Healthcare organizations (HCO) can also use the portal to submit a question about an existing PHE or related issue, according to the January 11 memo QSO-21-11-ALL.
The portal will assist “in expediting review of submissions, triages requests or inquiries, and tracks/reports on a national scale,” according to CMS.
You do not have to reapply for any of the blanket waivers already on the list, says the agency.
The portal is designed to be easier for HCOs, but also will take a load off the state and regional CMS offices that have been fielding individual waiver requests as well as general questions about the PHE for more than a year.
“If you or your organization have a question for CMS regarding a PHE, please visit the 1135 web-based portal to submit a PHE-related Inquiry. If you or your organization would like to request an 1135 waiver during a PHE, then also visit the web-based portal to submit your request,” says CMS.
CMS has long offered hospitals the ability to ask for flexibilities on meeting Conditions of Participation and other regulatory requirements during PHEs through 1135 waivers. The current PHE was first declared in late January 2020, retroactive to January 27.
While the list of blanket waivers came later, they are tied to the time period of the PHE. This is the fourth renewal of the original PHE declaration. While this extension — and the 1135 waivers allowed under it — goes through April 21, the PHE can be ended earlier if HHS decides the emergency is over.
According to HHS, “A PHE declaration lasts until the Secretary declares that the PHE no longer exists or upon the expiration of the 90-day period beginning on the date the Secretary declared a PHE exists, whichever occurs first. The Secretary may extend the PHE declaration for subsequent 90-day periods for as long as the PHE continues to exist, and may terminate the declaration whenever he determines that the PHE has ceased to exist.”
Other waivers and modification can change the timeline. For more on 1135 waivers, see the HHS fact sheet at https://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/legal/Pages/phe-qa.aspx#faq7.
For more information about the portal, go to https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-21-11-all.pdf.
For help on using the portal, CMS has created a training video on YouTube: CMS YouTube 1135 Waiver and Inquiry Web Training.