In the News

HHS Renews Public Health Emergency, Keeping Key Home Health Waivers in Place

Home Health Care News / By Robert Holly
 
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Wednesday opted to renew the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), keeping in place several regulatory waivers that have been critical lifelines for home health and hospice operators since the start of 2020.
 
While the extension itself is not surprising, it offers further stability as operators struggle with workforce shortages and general inflation, among other challenges. On top of that, the move gives hospital-at-home stakeholders extra time under the Acute Hospital Care at Home waiver, as they work on gaining support for corresponding legislation in both the House and Senate.
 
The PHE has been repeatedly renewed since implemented by the Trump administration over 24 months ago.
 
Without action from HHS and the Biden administration, it was set to expire on April 16.
 
“With more than two years having passed since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, questions are being raised about when to end the public health emergency declarations made by the federal government early on, with some advocating for their extension and others calling for their expiration,” Kaiser Family Foundation experts wrote in a recently released issues brief. “There are numerous implications to ending these emergency declarations.”
 
Wednesday’s extension is for another 90 days, which will carry the PHE into July.
 
Under the PHE, federal regulators have waived or modified normal requirements for Medicare and Medicaid providers, plus private health insurers. While some waivers have focused on reducing reporting and supervision requirements, others have revolved around new telehealth allowances and funding support.
 
Medicare-certified home health agencies, in particular, have had access to a long list of waiver flexibilities…

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Public Health Emergency Renewed to July 15, 2022

Last Wednesday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra renewed the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration, effective April 16.

HHS will provide states and territories with no less than 60 days’ notice prior to the termination of the public health emergency declaration for COVID-19. In the meantime, certain waivers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for certain requirements under section 1135 of the Social Security Act will continue to be in effect. Read the latest at COVID-19 public health emergency declaration renewal.

 

Home Health Agencies Should Brace for PDGM Battle Later This Year

Home Health Care News / By Patrick Filbin
 
Home health providers should brace themselves for a potential Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) battle with the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) later this year.
 
Implemented on Jan. 1, 2020, PDGM is the largest overhaul to how Medicare-certified home health agencies are paid in two decades. And normally when CMS implements something of this magnitude, there are ongoing tweaks and changes to make sure reimbursement is fair to both the government and providers.
 
That balancing act is even more important with PDGM, which must be budget neutral, as mandated by Congress.
 
Yet because of the COVID-19 pandemic, any major recalibrations or corrections to PDGM’s foundation have, so far, been delayed, according to National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) President William A. Dombi. That could begin to change later in 2022, when CMS is gearing up to release its proposed payment rule for 2023.
 
“We’ve been having those conversations for three years,” Dombi told Home Health Care News during an interview at the Capital+Strategy conference. “We had those conversations before PDGM was put into the law because we knew, going down the pike, you’re going to be seeing what we’re facing from a Medicare home health priority perspective.”
 
Typically, CMS releases its proposed payment rule in late June or early July. With two years of PDGM observations and the public health emergency starting to wane, the agency may float big adjustments at that time.
 
“The concept [of budget neutrality] is a lot easier to state than it is to apply,” Dombi said. “The application of it, right now, has been … kicked down the road for a couple of years with the explanation being, ‘The data is not yet sufficient for us to make the judgment on it.’ The data will be sufficient for 2023.”
 
Now, Dombi said, CMS will be determining what the methodology is for determining whether the budget has been neutral or not.

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FAQs for Providers About the No Surprises Rules

CMS has posted updated Frequently asked Questions for providers about the No Surprises rules.  Information for providers and facilities regarding No Surprises rules, independent dispute resolution, and exceptions to the new rules and requirements can be found at: Frequently asked questions for providers about the No Surprises rules. (PDF)

 

Biden Announces Long COVID Strategy as Experts Push for More

Washington Post / By Dan Diamond and Frances Stead Sellers 
 
President Biden on Tuesday directed government agencies to take additional steps to research and treat long covid, a condition that remains often mysterious even as it has sickened millions of Americans.
 
Under a memorandum issued by Biden, the Department of Health and Human Services will coordinate a government-wide action plan to address long covid, which is estimated to afflict anywhere from 7.7 million to 23 million Americans, according to a recent federal watchdog report.
 
The government also will issue a report in 120 days detailing available services and support for those who suffer from long covid, accelerate efforts to enroll participants in a clinical research study and pursue federal protections for people with the condition.
 
The government will expand a nationwide network of long covid clinics being run through the Department of Veterans Affairs, with officials saying they are already providing new insights on how to care for long covid patients. Federal officials will also launch a new initiative, dubbed the “Health+ project,” to solicit feedback from people living with long covid and use it to shape practices at clinics nationwide.
 
Experts who have been studying the condition, which is linked to fatigue, brain fog and other symptoms that can linger for weeks, months or even years, hailed Biden for assembling a government-wide effort to combat long covid. They said it was an overdue recognition of the condition’s impact and reach. But many also said the administration must go further in devoting resources and making long covid a priority, reiterating that millions of people are eager for immediate treatment and help.

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