On May 11, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ended the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). The move comes after HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said the Department would not renew the PHE earlier this spring, and after President Biden ended a parallel COVID-19 national emergency declaration in April.
In advance of the end of the PHE, on May 5, the AAO-HNS led a joint letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requesting the agency to continue to cover outpatient telehealth services provided to Medicare beneficiaries by facility-based speech-language pathologists (SLPs) after the PHE ends. The Academy also requested guidance from CMS on how to report and bill for these telehealth services moving forward. The AAO-HNS partnered with the American Broncho-Esophagological Association and the American Laryngological Association in this effort and will provide guidance to members as it becomes available.
The ability to prescribe controlled substances based on telehealth patient visits was also set to expire at the end of the PHE. On May 9, however, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced its decision to extend these policies for an additional 6 months until November 11, 2023. The DEA had initially issued two proposed rules establishing new policies for controlled substance prescriptions based on telehealth visits, one for buprenorphine and one for other controlled substances. This extension provides additional time for the DEA to review the more than 38,000 public comments the agency has received to date, and to avoid potential lapses in patient care.
Additionally, last week CMS released a set of FAQs on the end of the PHE and its impact on various pandemic-era waivers and flexibilities under Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and in the commercial market.
For additional information, members are encouraged to contact the Academy’s Advocacy team.