The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is in the process of deciding what COVID-19 regulatory waivers will remain permanent or be retired following the end of the public health emergency.
“We are very focused on trying to give everyone as much time in terms of making sure people understand our approach. We’ve already started making some of the changes permanent, such as particularly around mental health for Medicare beneficiaries,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said during a national stakeholder call Tuesday.
“We continue to evaluate which authorities we have flexibility on and ones that will be ready for the next PHE,” she added.
The Department of Health and Human Services on Friday extended the public health emergency for another 90 days through Oct. 6, 2022. With the extension, COVID-19 regulatory waivers, such as exceptions to the three-day stay rule and telehealth flexibilities, will be around at least through early October.
A handful of waivers, including one related to temporary nurse aide training, were retired in early May and June.
“We are absolutely committed to giving full notice, 60 days, for planning and preparation [before] the PHE does close,” said Jonathan Blum, CMS’ principal deputy administrator and COO.
He added that the agency is committed to four areas of focus to help support states and providers once the PHE ending arrives. Those include: maintaining health insurance coverage; providing coverage and reimbursement for testing, vaccines and treatments; issuing new provider regulations and guidance to ensure patient and healthcare workforce safety; and keeping the healthcare system open and accessible through federal and state waivers.
“[That means] for us to go through a very careful process and very deliberate process to decide what to keep, what to sunset and which waivers could get turned on down the road if certain conditions get met,” Blum said.
“But we want to make sure that whatever we do we’re doing it in a carefully planned, coordinated way throughout the whole agency and to make sure that we are communicating well, giving ample notice — 60 days minimum — for whatever happens once the PHE comes to a close,” he added.