By A.J. Plunkett
No more guessing.
With a nod to the likely reality that the pandemic will last through at least 2021, The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has said that it will give states — and therefore hospitals and other healthcare organizations — 60 days’ notice before it officially ends the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE).
That means providers will have at least 60 days’ notice before the blanket waivers of certain Medicare Conditions of Participation and Conditions of Coverage will no longer be in effect. And you will have at least that much time to come into compliance.
But you will still have to be in compliance when those waivers, which have allowed providers certain flexibilities to put resources and energy into meeting the challenges of the COVID-19 patient surges, end along with the PHE.
HHS Acting Secretary Norris Cochran informed the nation’s governors about the change in a letter on January 25.
In a note to its clients, hospital accrediting organization DNV GL Healthcare noted the second paragraph of Cochran’s letter to governors:
“We are writing to you today to share more details regarding the public health emergency (PHE) for COVID-19, as declared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. §247d). The current public health emergency was renewed effective January 21, 2021, and will be in effect for 90 days. To assure you of our commitment to the ongoing response, we have determined that the PHE will likely remain in place for the entirety of 2021, and when a decision is made to terminate the declaration or let it expire, HHS will provide states with 60 days’ notice prior to termination.”
While the reprieve from uncertainty every 90-days on when the waivers would end is good news, DNV warned its clients that compliance will still be required whenever the waivers do end.
“DNV GL Healthcare has fielded many questions over the course of the PHE regarding the PHE’s end date and questions regarding hospital’s compliance expectations at the end of the PHE, particularly regarding 1135 blanket Waivers. While CMS has continued to indicate that there will be no grace period to return to compliance when the PHE ends, the 60 days’ notice prior to ending the PHE will allow hospitals some time to move towards being compliant at the end of the PHE.”
A.J. Plunkett is editor of Inside Accreditation & Quality, a Simplify Compliance publication.