A wave of healthcare flexibilities tied to the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) will expire and others will wind down when the PHE officially comes to an end on May 11. The COVID-19 National Emergency was also set to expire on May 11, but ended on April 10 when President Biden signed a joint resolution passed by congress, officially terminating it.
The administration is ready to transition away from the emergency phase but maintains that the response to COVID-19 will remain a public health priority. Rolling back the authorities that were tied to the public health emergency, however, will have a widespread impact on the broader healthcare ecosystem.
Three years ago, in response to the rapidly spreading COVID-19 virus, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies ushered in a wave of temporary waivers, flexibilities and modifications around existing regulations and requirements when the PHE was first declared by then-HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Jan. 31, 2020.
The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency has been renewed every 90 days since, but HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra announced in a February letter to U.S. governors that he would not renew the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency when it expires on May 11.
The temporary measures aimed to reduce the transmission and impact of COVID-19 and modify coverage requirements by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance plans. They expedited the developing and implementing of the COVID-19 vaccine program; expanded access to care through virtual tools and supported a nationwide approach to combatting the virus and boosting the overburdened healthcare system.
Congressional legislation supported the changes, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, among other key bills.
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