Newswise — Park Ridge, Ill.—The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) backs the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) decision to permanently allow Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) to supervise diagnostic tests—a decision that will ensure patients’ access to safe, high-quality care.

CMS issued a final rule Dec. 1 that includes updates on policy changes for Medicare payments under the Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) and other Medicare Part B issues, on or after Jan. 1, 2021. CMS initially allowed nurse practitioners (NPs), clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), physician assistants (PAs), and certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) to supervise diagnostic tests for in May to increase testing capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The final rule makes that waiver permanent for diagnostic tests within their scope of practice and state law and now includes CRNAs.

“We applaud the continued work of CMS to remove federal barriers to practice placed on APRNs, including CRNAs,” said Steven M. Sertich, CRNA, MAE, JD, Esq. president of the AANA—a professional organization representing the nation’s more than 57,000 CRNAs and student registered nurse anesthetists. 

“During the COVID pandemic, CRNAs stepped up in hospitals throughout the nation to lead intubation and other critical care teams of healthcare professionals,” said President Sertich. “Through this rule, CMS increases the testing capacity of hospitals and improves patient care by allowing CRNAs to immediately respond to patient needs.”

Since the start of the pandemic, tens of thousands of CRNAs have cared for critically ill patients. Their unique skills and expertise have allowed them to step forward in ways essential to addressing the virus that few others can, particularly in advanced airway and ventilation management, vascular volume resuscitation, and advanced patient assessment. The rule expands their services to supervising the performance of diagnostic tests, such as laboratory tests and diagnostic x-rays, as allowed under state law.

In anticipation of the rule change, CRNAs sent more than 5,240 comments to the CMS.

CRNAs are Medicare Part B providers and, since 1989, have billed Medicare directly for 100 percent of the physician fee schedule amount for services.