Medicare to Hospitals: Halt Nonessential Surgeries and Dental Care in Wake of COVID-19 Outbreak

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has urged hospitals to delay nonessential surgeries to free up staff and resources for the wave of COVID-19 patients.

Published March 19, 2020

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is urging health care providers to halt nonessential medical and dental services in the midst of the deadly novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

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The CMS on March 18 recommended that all elective surgeries as well as all nonessential medical, surgical and dental procedures be delayed until further notice. The recommendation was made during a White House Task Force press briefing. 

What types of procedures should be delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Hospitals and surgery centers were encouraged to delay less urgent procedures such as:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome treatment
  • Cataracts treatment and surgery
  • Colonoscopies
  • Joint replacements

More serious procedures that should continue as scheduled include treatments such as:

  • Cancer treatments
  • Brain surgeries
  • Organ transplants
  • Trauma care
  • Major heart surgeries

The measures are part of an effort to keep as many hospital beds open as possible for COVID-19 patients, as well as keeping enough respirators and personal protective equipment (PPE) in stock to handle the potential rash of incoming patients.

Additionally, some health care workers are being asked to cease their regular duties to assist with COVID-19 treatment. 

Medicare urges beneficiaries to delay non-essential dental procedures

Dental procedures not only use PPE, but they pose one of the biggest risks of coronavirus transmission due to the close proximity of the healthcare provider to the patient’s mouth. 

“The reality is clear and the stakes are high: we need to preserve personal protective equipment for those on the front lines of this fight,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma in a press release.

The CMS released a tiered guideline for determining whether or not to postpone a procedure.

The criteria used in these determinations include:

  • The supply of available PPE
  • Staffing availability
  • Availability of beds, particularly intensive care unti (ICU) beds
  • Ventilator availability
  • The health and age of the patient
  • Urgency of the procedure

Delaying nonessential services will also keep more patients at home and help to mitigate the spread of the infection. 

The decision to proceed with non-essential surgeries and procedures will ultimately be made at the local level by the clinician, patient, hospital, and state and local health departments.


About the author

Christian Worstell is a senior Medicare and health insurance writer with He is also a licensed health insurance agent. Christian is well-known in the insurance industry for the thousands of educational articles he’s written, helping Americans better understand their health insurance and Medicare coverage.

Christian’s work as a Medicare expert has appeared in several top-tier and trade news outlets including Forbes, MarketWatch, WebMD and Yahoo! Finance.

Christian has written hundreds of articles for that teach Medicare beneficiaries the best practices for navigating Medicare. His articles are read by thousands of older Americans each month. By better understanding their health care coverage, readers may hopefully learn how to limit their out-of-pocket Medicare spending and access quality medical care.

Christian’s passion for his role stems from his desire to make a difference in the senior community. He strongly believes that the more beneficiaries know about their Medicare coverage, the better their overall health and wellness is as a result.

A current resident of Raleigh, Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

If you’re a member of the media looking to connect with Christian, please don’t hesitate to email our public relations team at

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