HHS to Extend COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

By Policy and Advocacy Brief posted 06-30-2020 12:57


The AUA, along with many other partners in the medical community, has been actively engaged in advocacy to extend the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) – and the policies that have allowed providers to continue providing patients with uninterrupted access to health care services. The AUA submitted a letter to HHS on June 26 requesting that the PHE – due to expire July 25 – be extended. Other organizations submitted requests for the extension.  On June 29, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesperson Michael Caputo shared via social media that HHS intends to extend the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) by an additional 90 days. This is welcome news to the medical community.

There are a number of policies attached to the PHE, including:

  • the Medicare inpatient 20 percent add-on payment for COVID-19 patients;
  • increased federal Medicaid matching rates;
  • requirements that insurers cover COVID-19 testing without cost-sharing; and
  • waivers of telehealth restrictions.

In addition to our advocacy around the PHE extension, the AUA has identified key programs and flexibilities that should continue even after the PHE expires. Our June 29 letter to HHS and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requests that CMS continue offering telehealth flexibilities after the PHE has been cancelled. The request specifically called for leaders to:

  • maintain the expanded Telehealth Services List Medicare implemented during the PHE;
  • continued coverage and enhanced payment for telephone visits (CPT codes 99441-99443);
  • continued provision of telehealth and virtual services for new and established patients;
  • relaxation of telehealth originating site requirements to allow patients to receive telehealth services in their homes; and
  • adjustments to the Quality Payment Program and Appropriate Use Criteria Program.

For more information about these efforts, or to obtain copies of the letters, please contact PaymentPolicy@AUAnet.org.