July 10, 2020 - American Medical Technologists (AMT) joined nearly 90 stakeholder organizations in signing a July 10 letter formally urging HHS Secretary Alex Azar to extend the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) declaration for at least 90 days.
The healthcare community’s concerted efforts are making a difference. Secretary Azar’s communications director recently tweeted, “Enough already! @HHSGov expects to renew the Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 before it expires.” The PHE is currently scheduled to expire July 25.
Extending the PHE declaration will facilitate a number of important measures, including coordination across and amongst federal agencies and with state and local authorities; approval of new diagnostic tools and medical countermeasures, such as vaccines and antiviral drugs; supporting state public health officials who, in performing their legally-mandated duties to keep the public healthy and safe, have recently had their careers and safety threatened; and promoting preventive measures, among others.
A number of temporary payment policies, regulatory waivers, and other adjustments are also tied to the PHE, so the expected extension is welcome news to provider groups. For the lab community, the PHE renewal extends CMS’s favorable pricing for COVID-19 high-throughput diagnostic tests, as well as enhanced payment for specimen collection performed by independent lab personnel in nursing home and homebound patient settings. Some other notable policies attached to the PHE are the Medicare inpatient 20% add-on payment for COVID-19 patients, increased federal Medicaid matching rates, requirements that insurers cover COVID-19 testing without cost-sharing, and waivers of telehealth restrictions.
A copy of the stakeholder letter to Azar can be viewed here.