Xavier Becerra

Much to the relief of long-term care operators, the Department of Health and Human Services has extended the public health emergency declaration for another 90 days, agency chief Xavier Becerra announced Wednesday. 

The current public health emergency declaration was set to end Saturday. With the extension, COVID-19 regulator waivers, such as the three-day stay and telehealth flexibilities, will be around at least through mid-July.

Less than two weeks ago, the leader of the American Health Care Association said extending the PHE declaration was the group’s top priority, partly because it is tied to higher Medicaid payments in many states. 

“The PHE ensures our healthcare system, including long-term care, has the policies and resources it needs to address this ongoing pandemic,” AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson told HHS in late March

“If we have learned anything over the past two years, it is that the elderly are among the most vulnerable to this virus, and therefore, deserve the greatest support and highest prioritization,” he added. 

The public health emergency has been extended many times since it started March 2020. Calls to rescind it, however, have increased as infection and death rates have dropped. Federal health officials have emphasized that they will give at least 60 days’ notice before ending the emergency designation.