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Capitol Correspondence - 10.13.20

HHS Renews Pandemic Emergency for Another 90 Days

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The legal existence of state and federal Medicaid emergency waivers created to address the COVID-19 pandemic relies on there being a federal emergency declaration. As such, it is important for our members who rely on emergency waivers for needed financial and regulatory flexibility during the pandemic, such as Medicaid Appendix K, to be aware that the federal emergency declaration has been renewed. As reported by Health Leaders Media, the declaration has just been renewed through January 21, 2020.

“HHS Secretary Alex Azar has reauthorized the declaration of a pubic health emergency (PHE), meaning the PHE and its special rules for providers remain in effect at least through the end of the year.

At the federal government’s PHE website, Azar declared on Oct. 2: “As a result of the continued consequences of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, on this date and after consultation with public health officials as necessary, I, Alex M. Azar II, Secretary of Health and Human Services, pursuant to the authority vested in me under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, do hereby renew, effective October 23, 2020, my January 31, 2020, determination, that I previously renewed on April 21, 2020 and July 23, 2020, that a public health emergency exists and has existed since January 27, 2020, nationwide.”

As this is a 90-day authorization, physician practices can count on the flexibilities instituted by CMS under the authority of the PHE—such as the right to provide and bill Medicare for expanded telehealth and even telephone services regardless of site of service and expanded scope of practice for many non-physician practitioners—to continue through the end of the year.
 
The renewed 90-day period will cover Oct. 23 to Jan. 21, 2021.”