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Connection Newsletter - CMS announces immediate resumption of survey activities

If your hospital or health care system is still experiencing a COVID-19 surge that will make the development and implementation of a POC difficult, you should contact your state agency or CMS location to request an extension.

Legislative Update – Day 81 of session

The legislature is hard at work passing legislation already passed by committee with one notable exception. Appropriations committees are authorized to hold additional meetings creating an opportunity for many bills that have already “died” to be resurrected as strike everything amendments.

To date, approximately 400 bills are still progressing through the legislative process while 158 have been signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey.

While key legislators are working on the state budget, there have been very few indications a budget agreement is forthcoming. 

Visit to view all bill status updates.

CMS announces immediate resumption of survey activities

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced March 26 the resumption of survey activities for all complaints effective March 23, 2021. A summary of the memo follows.

  • CMS is lifting the previously extended 30-day survey suspension for hospitals. Survey activity will resume in accordance with Non-Long Term Care guidance issued in QSO20-35-All.
  • Non-Immediate Jeopardy (IJ) Hospital Complaints received during the survey suspension period beginning January 20, 2021, must be investigated within 45 days of March 23, 2021.
  • Hospital Plans of Correction (POCs) will be required for deficiencies cited on surveys performed on or after January 20, 2021.
  • Desk Reviews are permitted of all open surveys cited at any level of noncompliance, except for unremoved IJ findings, which require an onsite revisit.
  • Onsite Revisits are authorized and should resume as appropriate.
  • Open Enforcement Cases that are not IJ will have at least 60 and up to 90 days to demonstrate compliance with any outstanding deficiencies.

If your hospital or health care system is still experiencing a COVID-19 surge that will make the development and implementation of a POC difficult, you should contact your state agency or CMS location to request an extension.

First cases of South African COVID-19 variant detected in Arizona

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) announced the first case of South African COVID-19 variant on March 26 in the state. The B.1.351 COVID-19 variant, commonly referred to as the South African variant, has been confirmed in two test samples from the state. According to the CDC, this variant, which spreads at a faster rate, was first detected in the U.S. at the end of January. The CDC has advised that currently authorized vaccines so far appear effective against this variant. ADHS encourages Arizonans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and continue to take precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks and social distancing.

Medicare claims being held pending congressional action to suspend 2% sequester cuts

The U.S. Senate passed a bill on March 25 that, among other health care provisions, would eliminate the 2% sequestration cut to all Medicare payments until the end of 2021. The House of Representatives is expected to take up the Senate-passed bill the week of April 13 when it returns to Washington D.C. CMS has instructed Medicare administrative contractors (MACs) to hold all claims with dates of service on or after April 1, 2021, for a short period of time in anticipation of this Congressional action. MACs will automatically reprocess any claims paid with the reduction applied if necessary. More details on the bill may be viewed in the American Hospital Association’s Special Bulletin.

AstraZeneca updates vaccine candidate data

AstraZeneca revised March 25 its data on its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, saying its AZD1222 vaccine showed a 76% efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID-19. The biopharmaceutical company previously said its two-dose candidate is 79% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19. AstraZeneca also changed its estimated efficacy in people over 65, increasing it from 80 to 85%. All revisions were attributed to “pre-specified interim analysis,” which had sparked concerns from the Data and Safety Monitoring Board.

On the other hand, a study published March 24 in the New England Journal of Medicine on natural immunity and vaccine efficacy against the UK, South African and Brazilian variants of SARS-CoV-2 found the AstraZeneca vaccine may be less effective against the South African variant.

Biden Administration announces significant investment to build vaccine confidence

In a March 25 news release, the Biden Administration announced a $10 billion investment in promoting public confidence and expand access to COVID-19 vaccines, particularly among the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities. The initiative includes a $6 billion investment in community health centers to expand access to vaccines in underserved communities, along with $3 billion to strengthen vaccine confidence through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and $330 million for community health workers.

CMS updates guidance for emergency preparedness

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released interpretive guidance on March 26 for emergency preparedness provisions in its 2019 final rule reducing certain regulatory burdens for providers participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. These revisions to the State Operations Manual also include additional planning and preparedness guidance for emerging infectious diseases.

AHA releases its latest edition of the COVID-19 Snapshot highlighting challenges facing hospitals

The American Hospital Association (AHA) released its latest edition of the COVID-19 Snapshot, underscoring the dire needs of hospitals and health systems during the public health emergency. The Snapshot combines important data points with news articles and testimonials from the field to illustrate the importance of providing hospitals and health systems with additional resources and support so that they can continue to deliver care to patients and their communities.

2021 coding clinic updates - Bundle pricing available

AzHHA Affiliated Partner, NJHA Healthcare Business Solutions, is offering member health information managers and coding specialists a series of coding webinars, 2021 Coding Clinic Updates - Everything You Really Need to KnowThe webinar series provides a concise overview of the current issue of Coding Clinic and allows participants an opportunity for discussion and Q&A. The first session is scheduled April 14. For greater savings purchase the bundle package that includes registration to all four webinar sessions.

Upcoming Events

April 16 – Introduction to POLST workshop

The one-hour Introduction to POLST workshop equips healthcare professionals with knowledge and resources to begin using POLST, a portable medical order, in Arizona. The objectives are to describe what POLST is at the state and national level, explain why POLST is important, define the population for POLST, when to begin the conversation and who completes POLST, describe the process for completing, reviewing and updating POLST and learn the process of submitting healthcare planning documents to the Arizona Healthcare Directive Registry. Register here.

April 15 & 16 – AzCHER virtual conference

AzCHER’s premiere conference will occur on April 15 and 16, 2021. The two-day event (9 a.m. - 12 p.m. each day) features a packed agenda with keynote speakers addressing the recent Estes Park, Colorado wildfire and the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. Eight breakout sessions will also be offered. Visit the AzCHER website to register and view the full agenda.

Save the date: June 22 & 23 - Working Together: Forging the Future of Serious Illness Care

In collaboration with partners from California and Hawaii, AzHHA is working to hold a virtual summit, Working Together: Forging the Future of Serious Illness Care, on June 22 and 23. Attendees will hear from inspiring speakers, get the latest information on the state of serious illness care from thought leaders, connect with colleagues and friends in breakouts and group discussions and have the opportunity to rejuvenate the mind and spirit with a variety of activities. Registration is coming soon.


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