COVID-19: Legal updates for hospitals and health care facilities

Hospitals, surgery centers and more

The ongoing coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is causing incredible new challenges and stresses to all Americans (and especially health care providers) every day. Simultaneously, governments at every level continue to issue new statutory and regulatory responses, offering providers new opportunities to confront and overcome these challenges.

Below is a topical guide for hospitals and health care facilities on the front lines of caring for those with COVID-19.  For questions regarding how these changes may affect you, please contact the health care attorneys at Hagwood & Tipton.

Civil liability

On April 10, 2020, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves issued Executive Order 1471, which took effect immediately and until May 15, 2020.

The order grants health care professionals and health care facilities immunity from suit for civil liability for any injury or death alleged to have been sustained by their acts or omissions while providing health care services including, but not limited to screening, assessing, diagnosing or treating patients for COVID-19, or otherwise acting in support of the state’s COVID-19 response during the pandemic. 

This will not apply to acts or omissions that constitute a crime, fraud, malice, reckless disregard, willful misconduct or would otherwise constitute a false claim.

The order also authorizes the State Department of Health, Board of Nursing, and Board of Medical Licensure to make, amend or rescind any rules or orders it deems necessary for health care professionals to provide health care services in health care facilities in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Relocating patients

On March 13, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that during the ongoing national emergency, it would:

Medicare coverage for skilled nursing facilities

On March 13, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that during the ongoing national emergency, it would waive the requirement for a three-day prior hospitalization for coverage in a skilled nursing facility stay; and, for certain beneficiaries who recently exhausted their SNF benefits, authorize renewed SNF coverage without first having to start a new benefit period.


As part of complying with these orders, providers likely need to update existing policies and/or create new policies and notifications to staff, residents, and friends and family members regarding visitation.

CMS regulatory waivers and rule changes

Delivering care at other locations

On March 30, 2020, President Trump directed CMS to make sweeping regulatory changes, including temporary regulatory waivers and new rules “to equip the American health care system with maximum flexibility” to respond to the ongoing pandemic.

These temporary changes apply immediately across the entire U.S. health care system for the duration of the emergency declaration, allowing hospitals and health systems to deliver services at other locations to make room for COVID-19 patients in need of acute care in their main facility. The announced temporary actions include but are not limited to:

Advanced/accelerated Medicare payments

On March 28, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services detailed how providers can access accelerated or advanced Medicare payments under the new stimulus package.

To qualify for this acceleration/advance, providers and suppliers must:

Medicare will begin accepting and processing these requests immediately, and CMS anticipates payments to be issued within seven days of a provider’s request.

Federal stimulus for health care providers

On March 27, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a stimulus package, and President Trump signed the bipartisan H.R. 748 – the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act – into law. The act includes major provisions relevant to health care providers, including:


Assistance with these or other health care matters

For further questions or to request assistance with these or any other health care legal matter, call Hagwood & Tipton at (601) 707-4039. You may also email Julie Mitchell or Philip Chapman directly.