- HHS extended the public health emergency declared for the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, according to a tweet from Secretary Alex Azar.
- The move was expected but came just days before the emergency, first declared at the end of January, was scheduled to expire. Without the public health emergency in place, benefits and flexibilities that benefit hospitals would vanish. For example, the 20% Medicare add-on payment for admitted COVID-19 patients is peeled back when the emergency is over. The emergency also eases certain requirements, allowing care to be delivered in alternative settings.
- The declaration is expected to last for another 90 days, as the law stipulates.
Extending the PHE allows a number of regulatory changes that have been enacted to help providers manage outbreaks of the novel coronavirus to continue, including the rollback of telehealth restrictions that have eased access to virtual visits.
Other changes that will now continue include the 6.2 percentage point increase to the federal share of Medicaid funding and tweaks to value-based care programs from the CMS innovation arm.
Today I signed a renewal of the COVID-19 national public health emergency declaration. The Administration will continue its whole-of-America response to ensure Americans can get the care they need throughout the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/yGIr8hja3a— Secretary Alex Azar (@SecAzar) July 23, 2020
Industry groups urged HHS to continue the declaration to ease any concern those waivers would be eliminated. A department spokesperson said at the end of June the agency expected to renew it, but no official confirmation was given until Thursday.
The American Hospital Association said in a late June letter to HHS the continued assistance from the federal government was needed. AHA and other provider groups have also asked for additional relief funds from Congress.