COVID-19 Public Health Emergency renewed

The nation’s COVID-19 Public Health Emergency has been extended through the remainder of 2022 and into January 2023, and COVID-19 waivers and flexibilities will remain intact for healthcare providers for another 90 days.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra signed a 90-day extension Thursday, Oct. 13, continuing an unbroken string of extensions since the PHE was first declared in January 2020.

“We were expecting the extension, as officials have previously stated that they intend to provide a 60-day notice prior to the end of the PHE and subsequent revocation of flexibilities and waivers,” said Kim Skehan, SimiTree Director of Compliance, Regulatory and Quality.

Although many current waivers and flexibilities now available to providers will end when the PHE comes to a close, one of the exceptions will be the face-to-face encounter between patient and physician.

“Providers will have an additional 151 days beyond the last day of the COVID-19 PHE to continue relying on telehealth to meet F2F requirements,” Skehan said.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) clarified in September that it will follow provisions enacted by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 (CAA 2022). The act extends the F2F telehealth for both home health and hospice, allowing telehealth to continue through the 151st day following the end of the PHE.

The Home Health and Hospice Fact Sheets were updated last month to reflect the 151-day extensions and may be found here.

Additional exceptions surround home health aide training and supervision. Providers are reminded to check the 1135 COVID Waivers for these timeframes.

What agencies should do

SimiTree compliance experts recommend home health and hospice agencies, physician practices, behavioral health clinics and other providers stay abreast of federal and state waivers and requirements.

“Providers should make certain to incorporate the new timelines into the organization’s Emergency/Pandemic Planning and COVID-19 Response documentation to ensure a clear relationship between the waivers/requirements, staff training and evidence of documentation,” Skehan said.

SimiTree compliance exerts also recommend monitoring a web page CMS has launched to provide tools and information to help providers plan and coordinate the unwinding process. CMS said it will continue to update the Unwinding homepage as new resources and tools are released.

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