CMS unveils accreditation details

Sunday, August 6, 2006

WASHINGTON - CMS teased the industry last week by releasing a final rule that included the application process for accrediting organizations and other information but not the final quality standards.

The industry has been waiting for CMS to release the quality standards since June. The rule, which will be published in the Federal Register Aug. 18, states: "CMS expects to publish the quality standards in the near future."

Instead, the rule finalizes several provisions on accreditation that are outlined in CMS's proposal for competitive bidding. Among them: selecting accrediting organizations, contracting Competitive Bidding Implementation Contractors or CBICs, and educating suppliers and beneficiaries.

While most industry sources agreed there wasn't much "meat" to the rule, accrediting organizations appreciated finding out what they'll have to do before they're able to accredit providers who want to participate in competitive bidding in 2007. For example, they'll have to compare their standards with the final quality standards and provide detailed information about their surveyors (i.e., how many do they have and what are their qualifications?).

"Because CMS plans to evaluate the applications of accrediting bodies so thoroughly, providers should feel confident that the accrediting bodies that are recognized are real business units that can fulfill CMS's requirements and handle the increase in business," said MaryAnn Popovich, executive director of JCAHO's homecare accreditation program.

Per the rule, CMS will select several accrediting organizations to induce competition and help decrease accreditation costs. Also, it will ask organizations to prioritize their surveys to accommodate providers in the 10 cities where competitive bidding will first take place (Those providers must be accredited in early 2007, CMS states).

Other tidbits of information in the rule:
- Accreditation will follow an "unannounced survey process"--a development that concerns providers but doesn't faze the accrediting organizations. "It's the best insurance of continual compliance," said Sherry Hedrick, the director of clinical compliance and accreditation for ACHC.
- There are no exemptions for rural or small providers or pharmacies or physician offices.
- CMS will require accrediting organizations to reduce fees for small/specialty providers or those with multiple locations.