On Jan. 30, the Biden administration announced that it plans to end both the COVID-19 national emergency and the public health emergency (PHE) on May 11. Because the national emergency is currently scheduled to expire on March 1, while the PHE is slated to end on April 11 [refer to Washington Highlights, Jan. 13], the administration plans to extend temporarily the emergency declarations once more before terminating both on May 11. The Department of Health and Human Services has maintained that they would provide states and territories with at least a 60-day notice prior to the end of the declaration.
Officials announced the plan in a Jan. 30 statement of administration policy (SAP) from the Office of Management and Budget, responding to two measures, H.R. 382 and H.J. Res. 7, which passed the House on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 respectively, that would immediately terminate the emergency declarations. The SAP, which opposed both measures, emphasized the importance of offering providers, hospitals, and all others throughout the health system ample time to prepare for the end of the declarations, indicating that “an abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system,” especially for Medicaid beneficiaries, the nation’s veterans, individuals with behavioral health needs, rural patients, hospitals and nursing homes, and all others who have relied on flexibilities and waivers allowed during the PHE.
Late last year, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (CAA, P.L. 117-328), which contained language that extended through December 2024 key waivers that were first established during the COVID-19 PHE including certain flexibilities for Medicare reimbursement of telehealth services, and the Acute Hospital Care at Home program [refer to Washington Highlights, Jan. 4]. The year-end package also decoupled continuous coverage requirement of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (P.L. 116-127) from the PHE, allowing states to begin redetermining Medicaid enrollees’ continued eligibility for the program before the end of the PHE. Under the CAA, states are permitted to initiate Medicaid renewals as early as Feb. 1, although they may not terminate enrollees’ Medicaid coverage until April 1.