- CMS released on Monday a proposed rule intended to provide standards to improve the quality of care and advance health equity in hospitals.
- The proposed rule would apply to the 6,288 hospitals and critical access hospitals that participate in the Medicare or Medicaid programs.
- The rule proposes to reduce overuse of antibiotics and implement comprehensive requirements for infection prevention. CMS estimates these new requirements could save hospitals up to $284 million annually, while also improving care and potentially saving lives.
The proposed rule also advances protections for traditionally underserved and often excluded populations based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including gender identity), age, disability, or sexual orientation.
“This rule marks the first time that CMS has proposed explicitly to prohibit hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid from discriminating against patients,” said Cara James, PhD, Director of the CMS Office of Minority Health in a prepared statement. “We know that barriers still remain in accessing quality care for communities that have been traditionally excluded or underserved. This proposal reinforces the principle that access to needed health services should not be blocked because of discriminatory practices.”
The rule also requires critical-access hospitals to implement and maintain a quality assessment and performance improvement (QAPI) program.
The authors of the rule wrote they propose to revise conditions of participation for hospitals and CAHs, including "discriminatory behavior by healthcare providers that may create real or perceived barriers to care" and "requirements that do not fully conform to current standards for infection control."
The agency noted that it wants to modernize these conditions of participation as its been aware "through conversations with stakeholders and federal partners, and as the result of internal evaluation and research" that certain concerns persist among conditions of participation for hospitals and CAHs.
"We have been made aware that the historic lack of an explicit prohibition within the CoPs, and, in particular, the lack of civil rights protections regarding hospital patients’ gender identities, is regarded as having been a barrier to seeking care by individuals who fear such discrimination," the rule stated, adding "Some LGBT individuals face discrimination in the healthcare system that can lead to an outright denial of care or to the delivery of inadequate care."
The agency will accept public comments until August 15.