HHS extends Public Health Emergency (PHE) through end of 2021, at minimum

Mary MadisonClient News2 Comments

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.”

2 Comments on “HHS extends Public Health Emergency (PHE) through end of 2021, at minimum”

  1. HHS Indicates Public Health Emergency Will “Likely” Continue Through 2021.
    Please help clear up the ambiguity of this statement. The word “likely” is clearly not definitive . Can someone from some government agency state that in fact the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency will or will not be extended past April 20, 2021? Were the state’s informed 60 days prior to April 20, 2021 that the Public Health Emergency will expire? I have contacted several government agencies. I have tried in vain so far to get an answer to this question.

    1. Good morning Michael. Likely is about as definitive as anyone of us can say at this point in time. The PHE was extended through calendar year 2021 – please review https://briggshealthcare.blog/2021/01/25/hhs-extends-public-health-emergency-phe-through-end-of-2021-at-minimum/ again. We’re all trying to end this pandemic via vaccination and public health mitigation steps but the virus isn’t finished with us yet. Vaccine hesitancy, states ignoring public health recommendations and citizens not following those recommendations make it impossible for any human to definitively say when this will end. Tomorrow is April 20th which is merely 90 days from the last extension by HHS but we know (see blog again) that it will not expire as cases continue to increase throughout the country.

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