CMS ACCEPTS COMMENTS ON PROPOSED REGULATIONS VIA INTERNET FOR FIRST TIME
Private citizens, companies and others who want to comment on proposed Medicare and Medicaid regulations now, for the first time, can submit their opinions electronically via the Internet.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced that the new electronic process will begin with the rule proposing changes to the prospective payment system for long-term care hospitals, published in today’s Federal Register. Those wanting to comment electronically can do so through the www.regulations.gov Web site or the link to the new CMS system provided in CMS’ published rules.
In addition to comments on proposed or final regulations, the new CMS system will be open for comment on other documents, including policy notices soliciting public input and notices asking for other information, such as nominations for advisory committees.
CMS will continue to consider written comments delivered either by hand or through the mail to the addresses identified in the published rules by the close of the comment period.
Those who forward electronic comments will get an automatic reply confirming their comments were received before the comment period closed. This is not in place for comments received by hand or through the mail. In addition, all electronic comments will be posted on the Web site for the public to review after the comment period closes, including any personally identifiable or confidential business information included in a comment. CMS is working toward posting on its Web site, by early 2005, all comments received by the comment period’s deadline.
"One of the key goals of the President’s Electronic Government initiative is to make it easier for citizens to get services from their government," Acting CMS Administrator Dennis Smith said. "At the top of that list is making it easier for citizens and businesses to participate in the regulatory process. We encourage public input and carefully consider these comments before we develop a final regulation. CMS regulations establish or modify the way we administer our programs. We realize they may impact providers or suppliers of services, or the individuals enrolled or entitled to benefits under CMS programs."
To implement the President’s plan for expanding Electronic Government, CMS signed in September 2003 an agreement with the Food and Drug Administration, also a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, to create an electronic dockets system for CMS by copying FDA’s electronic system and adapting it to CMS’ needs. This system is now operational.
The proposed rule’s "comment period" states how long CMS will accept comments. Usually, the record, known as the docket, stays open for comments at least 30 days for Medicaid regulations and 60 days for Medicare regulations, though some comment periods may differ. (Weekends and holidays are counted in determining the closing date of a comment period.) All comments received before the close of the comment period are available for viewing by the public, including any personally identifiable or confidential business information that is included in a comment. The rule includes a telephone number for arranging to view comments received before the close of the comment period.
At the beginning of each quarter, CMS places on its Web site the Quarterly Provider Update, which identifies the regulations and notices CMS intends to publish during the quarter in the Federal Register. CMS generally limits the number of days it publishes regulations and notices in the Federal Register to the fourth Friday of each month. However, some regulations are mandated by specific statutory publication or effective dates that CMS will continue to meet.
Those who have signed up for the Update on the Internet by subscribing to the CMS-QPU Listserv will also receive any changes to the Update as CMS makes them. The Update is designed to make it easier for the public, providers and suppliers to understand the changes CMS is proposing or making in the programs it administers. The Update also lists the regulations, notices and manual instructions published in the previous quarter.