Long-term care operators can be forgiven for wondering what Wednesday’s Senate vote to put an early end to the National Emergency designation will mean for them. They’re not alone. In a flip-flop, President Biden is expected to sign into law the resolution, which was passed earlier this year by the House.

As it turns out, the surprising turn of events will not take away much, said Cynthia Morton, Advion’s executive vice president. The national trade association representing providers of ancillary services and products in the long-term care field sought answers Thursday to clear up any confusion members might have had about the sound-alike pandemic-era labels.

The national emergency designation was begun in March 2020 by then-President Trump. It is separate from the Public Health Emergency, which was declared in January 2020 by the Department of Health and Human Services. The latter is the bigger trigger for many important long-term care provider waivers and allowances.

“This is more of a political move to put pressure to end the emergency status,” Morton told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News in an email Thursday. “Providers should not be concerned that it ends the Public Health Emergency before the current anticipated end of the PHE, which is May 11.” 

Biden is expected to sign the resolution (H.J. Res. 7) after saying earlier that he would not. Ending the COVID-19 national emergency, which Congress can vote on, will have fewer broad implications than if the PHE would end early, Morton told Advion members in a memo Thursday afternoon.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ three-day hospital stay waiver for nursing home coverage, for example, will remain intact. It is also believed this week’s congressional vote will not alter the temporary nurse aide training waivers that have been granted to more than a dozen states. Those were previously expected to expire this month and next. Lobbying efforts, however, are expected to continue to create permanent or at least lengthier waivers for the three-day hospital stay and nurse aide training requirements.

Other waivers, however, will expire. Those include CMS waivers allowing hospitals to screen patients for COVID-19 off-campus, and another requiring private Medicare Advantage plans to cover services at out-of-network facilities. Another waiver allowed hospices to not provide physical or occupational therapy during the national emergency, the Advion member memo noted. 

It also emphasized that allowances for rehabilitation therapists to provide services via telehealth were previously separated from the PHE and extended by Congress through the last day of 2024.  

Providers have reluctantly been preparing for the conclusion of the public health emergency since before the administration’s late January announcement that it would officially end May 11.Advion encouraged providers to consult a posted list of all COVID-19 Emergency Declaration Blanket Waivers for healthcare providers.