Renewal of public health emergency expected before April 16 deadline: 8 things to know

The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency is set to expire April 16. It is expected to be renewed for another 90 days by the Biden administration amid political pressure to end it. 

Eight things to know this week: 

1. The Trump administration declared the coronavirus a public health emergency in late January 2020. HHS has continued to extend the declaration since; it is renewed for 90-day increments. The declaration was last extended Jan. 14 with a deadline of April 16. 

2. The PHE declaration can be allowed to expire at the end of the 90-day period or terminated early. 

3. HHS pledged to give 60 days' notice before terminating the PHE. The assumption is the declaration will be renewed later this week because the Biden administration has not warned it would lapse, The Washington Post reports, citing multiple people in touch with the administration. 

4. If the PHE is extended again before April 16, it would then expire July 15.

5. The extension would come amid political pressure to wind down the pandemic-born flexibilities for people, providers and federal health programs. Congressional Republicans have been urging President Joe Biden and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to end the declaration for months, penning a letter to them in February to end the declaration of COVID-19 as a public health emergency. 

6. Healthcare providers take the opposite view, urging for renewal of the declaration amid ongoing concerns about workforce shortages, supply chain disruptions, higher acuity health needs that were postponed throughout the pandemic, effects of long COVID-19, vulnerable populations who cannot be vaccinated and the potential for additional COVID-19 surges. 

7. When the PHE does end, so will its continuous enrollment requirement, which ensures individuals enrolled in Medicaid throughout the pandemic are not at risk of losing coverage. Ending this provision means millions of people will need to complete renewals necessary to redetermine their eligibility to remain in the program, a process that will likely be complicated by staffing shortages at state Medicaid agencies.

8. The conclusion of the PHE means most Medicare beneficiaries would lose access to coverage of nearly all telehealth services within a few months, unless they reside in rural areas or enroll in Medicare Advantage. (The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 extended telehealth flexibilities for 151 days beginning on the first day after the end of the PHE.) Hospitals would no longer receive a special pandemic-related 20 percent increase in Medicare payments for treatment of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 through the hospital inpatient prospective payment system, according to Kaiser Family Foundation

Editor's note: This article was updated at 6:45 p.m. CT April 11. 

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