Q: During a recent webinar, the presenter said waivers and equivalencies are only valid until the next triennial survey. Does that really mean if CMS approved a waiver or an equivalency we need to go through that same process again even if things have not changed in 3yrs and get this reapproved?
A: Yes it does. Once a waiver or equivalency request is approved by CMS, it is only valid until the next survey, regardless if the next survey is the triennial survey by your accreditation organization, or a validation survey by your state agency. At that time, the waiver or equivalency is no longer valid, and the surveyor will inspect the area to determine if the deficiency still exists, and if it does, the deficiency will be cited again. Then the hospital has the choice to either resolve the deficiency or submit a waiver (or equivalency) request again.
According to a statement from CMS, this process of having waivers and equivalencies valid until the next survey is a checks-and-balance system to ensure that the conditions in the hospital that allowed the waiver to be approved in the first place have not changed in the time since the waiver (or equivalency) was granted. It makes sense, in that CMS is ensuring that the conditions are still acceptable for a waiver or an equivalency.
However, the expense of submitting waivers or equivalencies every 3 years may be a real burden to some organizations, and there is no guarantee that CMS will approve a waiver (or equivalency) request for the same deficiency a second time. It is a very subjective process. That is why hospitals need to seriously consider resolving the deficiency instead.