HHS Secretary Alex Azar renewed the declaration that a national public health emergency (PHE) exists due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The declaration signed on Thursday renewed the public health emergency first declared at end of January before it was slated to expire on July 25, 2020. Without the new declaration, statutory and regulatory flexibilities would have ended.
This renewal extends the wide array of waivers and flexibilities that have been issued by HHS in response to COVID-19, including the scale-up of telehealth visits, emergency approval of new drugs and tests, and new flexibility for government-run health insurance programs.
HHS is reportedly contemplating making some of the waivers and flexibilities granted during the public health emergency permanent. Significant adoption of telehealth services during the pandemic, for example, has led CMS to consider lasting changes to Medicare coverage of telehealth and higher reimbursement for the services.
The American Hospital Association (AHA) previously called on HHS Secretary Azar to extend the public health emergency in a June 19th letter explaining the necessity of waivers and flexibilities during the pandemic. The Association also recently advocated for the permanent implementation of certain waivers and flexibilities, including expanded telehealth coverage and payment, elimination of specific practice limitations on nurse practitioners, site-neutral payment exceptions, and the scaling back of Medicare Conditions of Participation.