Virus Outbreak Atlanta

A sign outside the emergency entrance to Emory Hospital in Atlanta advises people with coronavirus-like symptoms to remain in their vehicles and wait for an attendant to help on Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Atlanta.

(The Center Square) – Georgia officials have asked President Donald Trump's administration to relax federal health-care program requirements that can create barriers to care for patients during the COVID-19 crisis.

Gov. Brian Kemp and the Department of Community Health asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to temporarily amend certain restrictions on Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids.

“As we continue fighting COVID-19, these waivers will empower the health-care community and increase their ability to care for patients by reducing federal regulations,” Kemp said in a statement. “From local health departments to major hospitals, health-care providers in Georgia are on the front lines of this fight.”

On March 13, Trump issued an emergency declaration that cuts some of the red tape from the CMS programs. However, states have the option to apply for additional exceptions to the programs' administration rules. 

Georgia officials have asked for temporary holds on the re-evaluation process for participants and pre-admission screening for long-term care patients. The waiver requests also would allow care to be covered outside of traditional facilities such as hospitals and clinics, lift certain prior-authorization and patient transfer requirements, and lift provider licensing restrictions across the state.

Leaders in Georgia's medical community have made similar requests to the federal agency.

The Georgia Hospital Association applied for corresponding waivers for Medicare, the president of the association, Earl Rogers, announced.

“The Georgia Hospital Association is proud to partner with Gov. Kemp and his administration to help hospitals expand their capacity to care for their communities via today’s submission of 1135 waiver requests,” Rogers said in a statement. 

As of Sunday night, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported 2,683 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, including 83 deaths.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus. The disease has caused at least 2,608 deaths in the U.S., with more than 145,000 confirmed cases in the country. COVID-19 symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing.

Most people who have it develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually the elderly and those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for four years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.