The COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) is finally ending, the Biden administration announced Monday. His last day is May 11th.
It will have been active for over three years at this point, dating back to January 2020.
“The COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency was declared by the Trump administration in 2020,” the White House Office of Administration and Budget said in a statement. “They currently expire on March 1st and April 11th respectively. Currently, the government plans to extend the state of emergency declarations until May 11 and then end both states of emergency on that date. This settlement would be consistent with the Administration’s previous obligations to provide at least 60 days’ notice prior to the termination of the PHE.”
A federally declared emergency allows agencies like Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) the ability to provide regulatory flexibility.
Several flexibilities have been granted to home nurses. Therefore, the end of the PHE will have a handful of ripple effects.
During the PHE, agencies were generally able to waive in-person requirements for things like onboarding, training, and even home care services certification. Telehealth flexibility has also been granted, although home healthcare providers still cannot bill for these visits as if they were visiting in person.
The waiver of acute hospital care at home was also originally tied to the PHE. But like some other health-related flexibilities, he was granted a two-year extension after the year-end PHE expired, bringing the spending bill to $1.66 trillion. The bill will also allow providers to use telemedicine as a substitute for certain in-person needs through 2024.
While PHE has had a massive and overwhelmingly positive impact on both home health care – and home and community care – during the pandemic, it has also at times caused confusion for providers.
Because it has been active for so long, there are now “seasoned” GPs who have never gone a day without PHE-era regulations.
For example, an exemption allowed multiple specialties to conduct home hospital admissions based on the needs of the patient. That could be continued, but it is now on the brink.
“These workers came at the same time as the Home Health waiver,” Cindy Krafft, the co-owner and co-founder of consulting firm Kornetti & Krafft Health Care Solutions, told Home Health Care News in July. “What they think is routine – being a PT and doing the recording or being a nurse and not having to do it all the time – can be a bit of a rude awakening. It’s normal for them, but that’s technically a waiver that will eventually go away.”