Azar reauthorizes COVID-19 emergency; flexibilities in place through end of year
HHS Secretary Alex Azar has reauthorized the declaration of a public health emergency (PHE), meaning the PHE and its special rules for providers remain in effect at least through the end of the year.
At the federal government's PHE website, Azar declared on Oct. 2: "As a result of the continued consequences of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, on this date and after consultation with public health officials as necessary, I, Alex M. Azar II, Secretary of Health and Human Services, pursuant to the authority vested in me under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, do hereby renew, effective October 23, 2020, my January 31, 2020, determination, that I previously renewed on April 21, 2020 and July 23, 2020, that a public health emergency exists and has existed since January 27, 2020, nationwide."
As this is a 90-day authorization, physician practices can count on the flexibilities instituted by CMS under the authority of the PHE—such as the right to provide and bill Medicare for expanded telehealth and even telephone services regardless of site of service and expanded scope of practice for many non-physician practitioners—to continue through the end of the year.
The renewed 90-day period will cover Oct. 23 to Jan. 21, 2021.
But this is no guarantee that Azar will reauthorize again in January. It also remains to be seen whether CMS will retain the flexibilities in 2021—the recent proposed rule for the physician fee schedule suggests the agency is eager to drop at least some of them.
Source: Part B News