Image of nurses' hands at computer keyboard

With the expiration of the public health emergency declaration just two days away, the federal government on Thursday renewed the declaration for the pandemic, a welcome move for long-term care providers. 

The upheld declaration, which now will expire at the end of October, allows  a slew of waivers for long-term care providers, including the suspension of three-day prior hospital stay and the relaxation of telehealth restrictions, to continue, and maintains increased Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP).

Providers have been pushing for the Department of Health and Human Services to extend the emergency period, which was set to expire on Saturday.

“As we outlined in a June 30 letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, the tools and flexibility put in place with the authority of the PHE are vitally important for the continued safety of older Americans and those who care for them,” Katie Smith Sloan, LeadingAge president and CEO, said in a statement to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News earlier on Thursday.

The public health emergency declaration ushered in a host of so-called 1135 waivers for skilled nursing facilities. Among them were the easing of the requirement for a three-day hospital stay as a precondition for nursing home coverage. Other waivers in place are the relaxation of a rule requiring CNAs to receive certification after four months of working. Finally, the declaration expanded the use of telehealth, which has been especially well received by consumers.

Also set to continue is the increased federal Medicaid match, or FMAP. The Families First Coronavirus Response, which passed in March, increased the federal Medicaid match by 6.2% and linked it to the emergency declaration. 

Among the waivers that already have ended are the suspension of staffing data submission through the Payroll-Based Journal system.

In a tweet late Thursday, Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said he renewed the declaration earlier that day. “The Administration will continue its whole-of-America response to ensure Americans can get the care they need throughout the pandemic,” he wrote.