HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra has extended the public health emergency.
The Department of Health and Human Services has extended the COVID-19 public health emergency yet again, giving long-term care operators and staff members some more time to prepare for its inevitable end.
HHS instituted the PHE in January 2020 and must renew it every 90 days to ensure certain pandemic-related waivers and flexibilities in the healthcare sectors. The latest renewal is effective as of Oct. 13, 2022, and will continue through Jan. 11, 2023.
To help them stay up-to-date with the changes, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has directed healthcare providers to an evergreen document, last updated Oct. 13, that contains current waivers and flexibilities under the PHE. Terminations and other changes for long-term care operations are noted, and all were made on or prior to the last renewal on Oct. 2, 2022. In the latest major change, a nurse aide waiver was allowed to expire on Oct. 6, under conditions set during a sweeping phase-out of pandemic allowances in April.
Continued allowances for long-term care and skilled nursing facilities include the waiver of a required three-day hospital stay to access skilled nursing services benefits, the waiving of level one and level two pre-admission screenings, and certain residents rights of transfer to allow cohorting of residents with confirmed respiratory illness, or separating residents to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
End of the PHE
CMS has continued to remind long-term care providers to prepare for the end of the PHE, asking operators to begin working to reestablish previous health and safety standards and billing practices “as soon as possible.”
The end of the PHE will have a far-reaching impact on healthcare beyond the long-term care sector. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that up to 15 million people will lose Medicaid coverage, according to CNBC News. Pharmacies also have had their role “vastly expanded” to allow them to provide vaccinations. And the Biden Administration is relying on pharmacies to get recently updated COVID-19 booster vaccines to as many qualified Americans as possible, the news outlet reported.
Although President Joe Biden recently declared the pandemic to be over, “the extension of the public health emergency indicates the administration does not believe the U.S. is out of the woods yet,” it noted.