COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Extended; Telemedicine, Other Waivers Extended

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The national public health emergency related to COVID-19 has been extended to July 20 and likely will be extended throughout 2021, the federal Health and Human Services (HHS) Department has announced.  

The public health emergency, originally issued in January of last year, has been renewed every 90 days throughout the pandemic. It was set to expire April 21. 

Texas Medical Association experts say the extension allows the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to maintain several COVID-19-related Medicare waivers and flexibilities, including paying the same rate for telemedicine visits as for in-person visits, and allowing use of audio-only telemedicine services.  

For Medicaid, the extension means Texas will continue to receive a 6.2% increase in federal Medicaid funding in exchange for maintaining coverage for people who enrolled on or after March 18, 2020, including women who otherwise would lose Medicaid 60 days postpartum.   

In addition, Texas Medicaid extended multiple state and federal flexibilities through May 31, including payment for telephone- or audio-only telemedicine services, suspension of revalidation requirements, and elimination of cost-sharing for children enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  

The extension also means private health insurers’ copayments related to COVID-19 testing (though not necessarily treatment) and related to any forthcoming vaccinations will be waived. The state Office of Public Insurance Counsel website includes each Texas insurance carrier’s COVID-19 cost-sharing policy. 

Certain HIPAA enforcement actions also will continue to be relaxed. Specifically, physicians who use certain telemedicine platforms in good faith will not be penalized for noncompliance.   

Throughout the pandemic, TMA has called on state and federal leaders continuously to allow flexibilities and expand programs in an effort to protect practices financially. State lawmakers are currently considering legislation to make many of the flexibilities permanent. 

As always, check the TMA COVID-19 Resource Center regularly for up-to-date news and the latest TMA materials for your practice.

Last Updated On

April 29, 2021

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