CMS sets deadline for accreditation

Sunday, April 22, 2007

WASHINGTON - CMS dropped a bomb last week when it announced that providers who plan to participate in national competitive bidding this year must be accredited by Aug. 31. Many providers assumed they would have until December--when the first contracts are awarded--to complete the process.

"The floodgates have definitely opened," said Sandra Canally, president of The Compliance Team. "Now it's a matter of signing them up and getting them through the process."

The accreditation process can take six months, but providers willing to burn the midnight oil can do it faster, said Tom Cesar, president and CEO of ACHC.

"The new ones coming in today, thinking they can get it done in four months are going to have to move really fast," said Cesar.

Cesar predicts a "train wreck" if providers wait until July to schedule onsite surveys. They may find themselves on a waiting list.

"We can't give them a date, but it's typically a month to eight weeks," said Cesar. "And then it takes about three weeks to turn that around with the certificate and the scoring. They're running a risk."

Mary Nicholas, executive director of HQAA, warns that the shortened time period may lead to providers failing surveys.

"When people rush, the end result may not be what they are looking
for," she said.

Provider inquiries to accreditation agencies have jumped significantly, with the biggest increase, not surprisingly, from providers located in the first 10 competitive biddings areas. But, accreditors say, they also are hearing from providers in other regions. What's most surprising, they say, is the hesitation many providers still have to get accredited.

"What they are not understanding is the trickle down effect on the state Medicaids, on the managed care organizations," said Canally. "More and more follow the feds. Accreditation is not going away."