Florida became the nation’s first state to be granted an emergency Medicaid waiver for dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services state announced Tuesday that it had approved the state’s 1135 Medicaid waiver in just a matter of days. The agency said Florida marks the first of what will likely be many states attempting to expand Medicaid services to combat the coronavirus.

The waiver suspends certain nursing home screening requirements; waives prior authorization requirements; streamlines provider enrollment processes; allows care to be provided in alternative settings if a licensed facility is evacuated to an unlicensed facility; and extends deadlines for appeals and state fair hearing requests. 

Florida nursing home providers said the waiver will promote more direct caregiving since it postpones the Preadmission Screening and Resident Review. 

“While this waiver does multiple things, a key element is that it will help keep providers out of offices and on the floor caring for residents by giving them more time to complete the Preadmission Screening and Resident Review (PASRR). We thank our state’s leadership for being the first to reach out to CMS to request some flexibility to help providers during this unprecedented time,” Nick Van Der Linden, director of communications with LeadingAge Florida, told McKnight’s

“Our members have been extremely proactive with containment strategies and infection prevention and control measures — many have had aggressive protocols in place for weeks now,” he added. “Our members have been screening residents, visitors and vendors, and refusing admission to anyone who fails the screening criteria.”

The Florida Health Care Association said the waiver will help providers and residents in a time of physical and emotional need.

“As you can imagine, healthcare staff must undergo the same screening procedures as outlined in our governor’s emergency orders; school closures, which poses challenges for staff without childcare, so we are trying to initiate plans to combat caregiver shortages,” the association said in an emailed statement to McKnight’s. “We’re also working hard to help ensure our residents’ emotional well-being, given the restrictions to visitors and the guidance to restrict group activities.”