CMS Relaxes Physician Certification Statement Signature Requirements During Public Health Emergency for COVID-19

CMS Relaxes Physician Certification Statement Signature Requirements During Public Health Emergency for COVID-19

 By Kathy Lester, J.D., M.P.H.

  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released guidance that recognizes the difficulty ambulance service providers and suppliers may have during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) in obtaining a physician certification statement (PCS) signed by a physician or other authorized professional. The question and answer below indicates that CMS (and its contractors by extension) will not deny claims during a future medical audit even if there is no signature for non-emergency ambulance transports, absent an indication of fraud or abuse. Ambulance service providers and suppliers should indicate in the documentation that a signature was not able to be obtained because of COVID-19. The AAA advises completing the PCS form and then indicating if a physician, or other appropriate personnel, has not signed it by writing “COVID-19 Public Health Emergency” on the signature line. CMS also reminds providers and suppliers that medical necessity still needs to be met.

The American Ambulance Association has been advocating for CMS to ease its restrictions on signature requirements during the COVID-19 PHE. The FAQ posted by CMS is consistent with our recommendations.

The specific Q&A is below:

Q. For ambulance services that require a physician, or, in lieu of that, certain non-physician personnel, to sign and certify that a non-emergency ambulance transport is medically necessary, are these signature requirements not required during the COVID-19 PHE? 

A. We understand that in certain situations during the COVID-19 PHE it may not be feasible to obtain the practitioner signature. Therefore, for claims with dates of service during the COVID- 19 PHE (January 27, 2020 until expiration), CMS will not review for compliance with appropriate signature requirements for non-emergency ambulance transports during medical review, absent indication of fraud or abuse. Ambulance providers and suppliers should indicate in the documentation that a signature was not able to be obtained because of COVID-19. However, we note that Medicare Part B covers ambulance transport services only if they are furnished to a Medicare beneficiary whose medical condition is such that other means of transportation are contraindicated, and the beneficiary’s condition must require both the ambulance transportation itself and the level of service provided in order for the billed service to be considered medically necessary.

The full Q&A document can be accessed here.

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Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), coronavirus, COVID-19