Standards: Accreditors get answers

Sunday, September 17, 2006

WASHINGTON - Representatives from eight accrediting organizations were on the horn with CMS officials for nearly two hours Sept. 14 to discuss their concerns with the agency's final quality standards.

Although CMS asked the accrediting organizations not to release information from the teleconference, organizations like ACHC described it as "a positive experience."

"We learned a lot, and we're feeling better about it," said Tom Cesar, president of the Raleigh, N.C.-based ACHC.

ACHC organized the teleconference. Before it took place, ACHC gathered about 45 questions from the other accrediting organizations and forwarded them to CMS.

At some point, CMS plans to post information from the teleconference online in a question-and-answer format, Cesar said.

When CMS released its final quality standards in August, the industry was relieved to see that the agency had scaled back its requirements, but some accrediting organizations feared CMS went too far. At the time, Cesar said: "They might have devalued the true value of accreditation."

The accrediting organizations also fear that the application process for becoming a "deeming authority" will make them no more than a clearinghouse.

Accrediting organizations had until Oct. 1 to submit an application to become a "deeming authority." A month later, CMS plans to announce the organizations that will accredit providers as part of its national competitive bidding program.

"They said (the metropolitan statistical areas or MSAs) would be announced shortly thereafter," he said.

CMS plans to kick off NCB in 10 MSAs sometime next year. The industry also awaits information on what products CMS will put out to bid.