- CMS want accrediting organizations to disclose when they're considering a change in ownership. In a newly proposed rule, the agency would require AOs follow a process when there is a "sale, transfer, and/or purchase of assets related to the ownership of an AO," it said in a statement Tuesday.
- Current regulations do not require AOs to notify CMS of ownership changes before they occur. Typically, that's disclosed when an AO applies for a renewal with CMS, the agency said.
- The prospective buyers also would be required to provide CMS with documentation "confirming their ability to effectively perform the required accreditation tasks." CMS could not block a deal, but the rule allows CMS "to approve or deny the accreditation programs that are to be transferred as part of the sale or transfer," the agency said.
The move is the latest in a string of moves by CMS to strengthen its grip on the organizations tasked with accrediting the nation's hospitals.
In October, CMS acknowledged the need for more transparency and said it would post performance data of AOs online, making it available to the public. At the same time, CMS said it would launch a pilot to assess AOs' ability to measure hospitals' compliance with health and safety standards. CMS said it would launch a direct observation during an AO's own survey of a facility.
"If finalized, this rule would give CMS the ability to conduct better oversight through increased transparency of the ongoing effectiveness of approved accreditation programs that may undergo a change of ownership, thereby minimizing any potential risks to patient safety and further building on the agency’s commitment to patient safety and accountability," CMS said in a statement.
The stepped-up oversight comes after The Wall Street Journal's investigative report found that hospitals rarely lost accreditation despite serious safety flaws. CMS relies on accrediting organizations to certify that facilities meet health and safety standards. Any facility receiving Medicare reimbursement must be certified or accredited by a state or accrediting organization. The Joint Commission evaluates nearly 80% of hospitals, a significant share, according to the WSJ investigation.