Shutdown ends, and hospital inspectors rush to catch up

States working through backlogs of inspections, recertifications

Topics: Access to Care, Quality, Performance Improvement, Appropriateness, Infection Control, Infectious Diseases, Outcomes, Workforce

October 21, 2013

The government shutdown was lifted last week, but health experts say that the effects of the 16-day closure will be felt for weeks as state and federal officials scramble to catch up on hospital inspections, recertifications, and more.

Before the shutdown went into effect, HHS created a contingency plan for CMS to "incur obligations up to an aggregate $8.6 million in Medicare funds covering initial [survey and certification] activities up to the first three or four weeks of the fiscal year" with specific funding levels appropriated to each state.

At a state level

State officials were limited to pursuing only what CMS described as "complaints that are triaged as credible allegations of immediate jeopardy or harm to an individual" during the shutdown, according to Health Leaders Media. With the shutdown lifted, state health departments will now deal with a backlog of postponed federal inspections.

Four or five hospital recertifications were delayed during the shutdown, according to Texas State Department of Health spokesperson Christine Mann. In Florida, no federal inspections were delayed, according to spokesperson Shelisha Coleman.

At the federal level

The planned Oct. 10 update to CMS' Hospital Compare website was postponed—the agency released a statement saying that its next scheduled release of the website is set for Dec. 12 when the agency will "update the readmission and complications data as well as release several new measures."

Additionally, the American Hospital Association delayed its deadline for hospitals to submit data for its quarterly RACTrac survey to Oct. 18. The survey gauges the impact of Medicare's Recovery Audit Contractor program on hospitals, according to HealthLeadersMedia.

As for the Affordable Care Act, reopening the federal government came at the cost of changing one part of the law: HHS must verify the eligibility of every person applying for federal subsidies when purchasing insurance on the health exchanges. The agency is also required to submit a report to Congress by Jan. 1, 2014, describing what measures were taken to verify eligibility.

In an Oct. 16 statement, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said the GOP "will rely on aggressive oversight that highlights the law's massive flaws and smart, targeted strikes that split the legislative coalition the president has relied on to force his healthcare law on the American people" (Desjardins, HealthLeadersMedia, 10/18).

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