On April 12, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Beccerra acted to renew the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) effective April 16. Section 319 of the Public Health Service Act grants the federal Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to declare a public health emergency when a severe disease or disorder poses a significant threat to citizens.
PHEs remain in effect for periods of 90 days unless renewed by the Secretary or affirmatively terminated. Separately, the Biden Administration committed in January 2021 to provide the nation’s governors with at least 60 days advance notice of an intention to terminate the federal PHE.
By keeping the PHE in place, the HHS Secretary has access to appropriations made to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, an account that can be used for any number of purposes during a crisis. A federal PHE also allows the HHS Secretary to waive rules that would otherwise apply under Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP.
The PHE also extends Medicare telehealth flexibilities for audiology. Review this Academy resource for additional detail on the audiology codes available for billing to Medicare during this extension.
In addition, the recently enacted 2022 omnibus appropriations bill also provides that these telehealth flexibilities will remain in effect for a period of 151 days (roughly five months) after the end of the federal PHE.
State governments have separate authorities for declaring emergencies, including for public health threats. At one time during the COVID-19 pandemic, all fifty-states and Washington, DC, invoked various emergency powers to allow the nation’s governors to react quickly to the public health emergency.
As of March 2022, only 20 states have emergency declarations related to the pandemic in place.
The Academy leadership is aware that many members have expressed concerns about the potential consequences of the final regulations for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. With the final regulations set to go into effect on October 17, we understand the heightened apprehension about their impact on current audiology practice. The Academy is working on your behalf…
In early September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report detailing that Medicare beneficiaries used 88 times more telehealth services during the pandemic’s first year than in the prior year. The report recognized the importance of telehealth services, but also recognized the ongoing challenge in confirming…
The Audiology Quality Consortium (AQC), currently chaired by the Academy, submitted comments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding changes to audiology quality measures and reporting responsibilities under the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). The mission of the AQC is to: Collaborate on the analysis and recommendation of audiology quality measures for use in…