Late Friday evening (January 22, 2020), the Acting U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Norris Cochran sent a letter to state Governors indicating that in addition to extending the current public health emergency (PHE) for an additional 90-days, effective January 21st, HHS has made the decision that the PHE “will likely remain in place for the entirety of 2021 (bolding and underlining added by me).” The letter notes that if a decision is made to terminate the declaration or let it expire, HHS will provide states with 60 days’ notice prior to termination.
“Predictability and stability are important given the foundation and flexibilities offered to states that are tied to the designation of the PHE. Among other things, the PHE determination provides for the ability to streamline and increase the accessibility of healthcare, such as the practice of telemedicine. It allows under section 1135 of the Social Security Act, in conjunction with a Presidential Declaration under the National Emergencies Act or Stafford Act, the Secretary to waive or modify certain Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule requirements. The goal is to ensure to the maximum extent feasible that, in an emergency area during an emergency period, sufficient health care items and services are available to meet the needs of individuals receiving Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP and that providers that furnish such items and services can be reimbursed for them and exempt from sanctions, absent fraud or abuse.
Additionally, the available temporary 6.2 percentage point increase in the Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Pub. L. 116-127) expires at the end of the quarter in which the PHE ends. With the extension and additional advance notice, we seek to provide you with increased budgetary stability and predictability during this challenging time.
In light of the PHE extension, you can expect the continued use of other emergency authorities, including Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act declarations and emergency use authorizations (EUA) for diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. The Department will consider the use of any available flexibility to aid states in their response to this PHE.”