Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra has extended the Covid-19 public health emergency for another 90 days until what would be a Jan. 11, 2023 expiration date.
This will mean that U.S. healthcare and the HME industry, in specific, will continue operating under policy relaxations and different reimbursement guidelines. For the HME industry, that includes:
- The 75/25 blended rate in non-rural/non-competitive bidding areas.
- NCD/LCD flexibility allowing expanded use of home-based respiratory products/therapy, as well as infusion and anticoagulation devices.
- Waiver of face-to-face requirements for many products, which allows the use of telehealth for items that are not included in the waiver, such as power mobility devices.
- A 6.2 percent increase in Medicaid FMAP match (this will remain in effect through the end of the quarter in which the PHE expires).
- State Medicaid waivers and flexibilities tied to the PHE (states can, however, end flexibilities they have granted at their discretion).
- TRICARE reimbursement increases that are tied to the Medicare rate relief.
The big question on the industry’s minds is whether or not this will be the final deadline extension for the PHE.
While President Joe Biden might have told CBS News’s 60 Minutes in September that the pandemic was over, this will mark the 11th time HHS has extended the PHE since it was first declared by former HHS Secretary Alex Azar in January 2020. So, it can be assumed HHS is acting independently of the administration.
Furthermore, in a May 10 letter to U.S. governors, Becerra reaffirmed HHS’s commitment to providing at least 60 days advance notice before ending the PHE. Based on that information, it can be assumed that all eyes will be on HHS in mid-November to see if the PHE will be renewed.
And in the meantime, industry advocates aren’t losing any time working to secure a longer life for the 75/25 blended rate. The American Association for Homecare notes on its Medicare Reimbursement Legislation Campaign Central page that industry stakeholders are working with HME champions in the Senate to build support for extending the 75/25 blended rate beyond the end of the Covid-19 PHE.
“While there currently is no active legislation with this provision, we encourage suppliers who have a chance to meet with their Senators over the next few weeks to request that they support extending current relief for non-rural, non-CB area suppliers,” the association notes. “If your Senator is on the Finance Committee, these preliminary contacts are especially important.”