In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Facilities for Medicare & Medicaid Companies (CMS) issued nearly 200 “blanket” waivers which routinely apply to well being care suppliers together with hospitals, different healthcare amenities, and healthcare professionals. These blanket waivers are efficient via the length of the federal Public Well being Emergency (PHE) declared by the Secretary of the US Division of Well being and Human Companies (HHS), which has been prolonged for 90-day durations because the onset of the pandemic and is at the moment prolonged via April 16, 2022. Whereas HHS has not given any indication of an finish date for the PHE, HHS has said that it’ll present not less than 60 days’ discover previous to such date.
Whereas a big variety of the blanket waivers are prone to expire together with the expiration of the PHE (e.g., these regarding supplier licensing and enrollment and the suspension of enforcement actions), there’s a probability that among the adjustments made by blanket waivers will proceed in impact previous the top of the PHE via new legal guidelines together with telehealth growth and the comfort of different legal guidelines.
Telehealth. See an outline of the related exercise concerning telehealth growth beneath:
- On March 15, 2022, President Biden signed a spending bundle into regulation which extends sure telehealth blanket waivers for 151 days after the top of the PHE. The prolonged waivers deal with the next:
- Increasing the originating web site definition to incorporate any web site at which the affected person is situated;
- Increasing the eligibility of sure healthcare amenities and suppliers to furnish telehealth companies;
- Delaying the 6-month in-person necessities for furnishing psychological well being companies via telehealth;
- Extending protection and fee for audio-only telehealth companies; and
- Permitting using telehealth companies to satisfy the face-to-face necessities for hospice care.
- We additionally posted a weblog in April 2021 that mentioned completely expanded Medicare protection for sure telehealth companies.
- States too, akin to Illinois and Arkansas, have codified sure telehealth waivers initially put in place on the onset of the pandemic (e.g., waivers permitting telehealth companies to be offered to a affected person in any setting and by any licensed well being care supplier).
- Outstanding well being care associations, together with the American Hospital Affiliation, have urged each Congress and CMS to cross legal guidelines and laws codifying lots of the telehealth blanket waivers, in addition to to proceed to train enforcement discretion throughout a interval of transition for these blanket waivers that can expire.
- Final month (Feb. 2022), Congress launched laws that will lengthen sure Drug Enforcement Administration telehealth prescribing waivers for a further two years following the top of the PHE.
These actions present that each lawmakers and well being care trade stakeholders consider that the elevated entry to telehealth companies offered by these waivers will proceed to learn sufferers past the timeframe of the pandemic and supply some indicia that not less than among the telehealth waivers which had been prolonged for a further 151 days after the top of the PHE could change into everlasting.
Leisure of different legal guidelines. There has additionally been a push by stakeholders to increase or make everlasting sure non-telehealth blanket waivers additionally aimed toward rising entry to well being care. These waivers embrace, for instance, increasing entry to hospital at house packages by suspending the necessities that nursing companies be offered on premises always, modifying scope of follow limitations on nurse practitioners to be no extra restrictive than what’s allowed below state regulation, and permitting rural hospitals to extend mattress capability when an emergency requires such motion. The federal laws signed yesterday prolonged the 340B eligibility exception for sure hospitals via the top of 2022, permitting hospitals that misplaced their 340B eligibility because of a drop of their disproportionate share adjustment proportion on account of COVID-19 to proceed to entry the 340B drug reductions.
Whereas well being care organizations ought to begin planning for the top of the PHE and the blanket waivers that got here together with it, there’s cause to be cautiously optimistic that not less than among the CMS blanket telehealth waivers, and maybe different CMS blanket waivers, will proceed previous the top of the PHE or change into everlasting.