The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) was renewed again effective April 16, 20221; that 90-day renewal will expire on July 15, 2022. However, it is likely that the PHE will be extended again.
Since taking office in 2021, the Biden Administration has a promised that they will provide states notice at least 60 days prior to revoking the PHE. This heads up is not required by law, but is being given as a courtesy and in recognition of how challenging it will be to wind down from the waivers and policies that are tied to the PHE. If the PHE were to expire in mid-July, the 60-day heads up was due by May 16, 2022. No states received notice. As a result, it is now expected that the PHE will be extended again this July.
It is important to note that while the PHE must be declared in units of 90 days at a time, it can be called off before it expires. In addition to the anticipated extension in July, some are speculating that the PHE might be kept in place through the end of the year. While it is yet unclear if that is purely speculation or an actual plan, this is how it could play out: should the Administration decide in October to renew the PHE for another 90 days, the Administration could couple that declaration with a 60-day notice that it will expire in mid-December instead of mid-January 2023.
At this point, plan on the PHE being renewed this July which means that the 151-day extension2 of the current CARES Act coverage for telehealth provided in the FY2022 Omnibus3 will result in the ability of physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and audiologists to keep providing rehabilitation therapy via telehealth until mid-March 2023.
However, once these PHE-linked flexibilities expire, only therapy providers who are billing incident to a physician will retain the ability to provide care via telehealth. Legislative action is necessary to ensure that all rehabilitation therapists can continue to provide care via telehealth. While there are a number of telehealth bills being considered, the Expanded Telehealth Access Act (S.3193/H.R.2168) would permanently add rehabilitation therapists and their assistants to the list of distant site providers that Medicare pays for telehealth.4 If you provide therapy services via telehealth, reach out to your lawmakers and ask them to cosponsor this crucial and bipartisan bill.
2 FY2022 Omnibus, Section 302. Expanding Practitioners Eligible to Furnish Telehealth Services.
3 Bill language available at: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwiAlMXf-c32AhXzpnIEHQKgCiMQFnoECAYQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Frules.house.gov%2Fsites%2Fdemocrats.rules.house.gov%2Ffiles%2FBILLS-117HR2471SA-RCP-117-35.pdf&usg=AOvVaw3N-5SzalR5jHmEodD92gkX