HHS announces licensed practitioners can cross state lines during COVID-19 pandemic

Requirements that physicians and other healthcare professionals hold licenses in the state in which they provide services have been temporarily waived by the federal government. Yesterday, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar II announced that if practitioners hold an equivalent license from another state and are not affirmatively barred from practice in that state or any state that is included in the emergency area, they can provide care in any state.

The announcement comes as the government looks for additional ways to treat patients and support healthcare workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. In the memo announcing that HHS is waiving/modifying certain requirements under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act, Azar states that these actions have been taken “to ensure that sufficient health care items and services are available to meet the needs of individuals enrolled in the Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP programs and to ensure that health care providers that furnish such items and services in good faith, but are unable to comply with one or more of these requirements as a result of the consequences of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic, may be reimbursed for such items and services and exempted from sanctions for such noncompliance, absent any determination of fraud or abuse.”

The waiver also applies to sanctions related to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). Organizations will not be penalized for relocating a patient to another location to receive medical screening or for the transfer of an individual who has not been stabilized if the transfer is necessitated by the circumstances of the declared federal public health emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The waiver went into effect on March 15, but is retroactive to March 1, 2020.