Feb 1, 2023 - Health

What goes — and what doesn't — with the end of the public health emergency

Illustration of a covid mask fading left to right.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The planned end of the COVID public health emergency on May 11 could cause major disruptions for some health care providers while barely creating a ripple in other segments of the industry — at least for now.

Why it matters: Congress and the executive branch have already decided the fate of some key regulatory flexibilities that are tied to the emergency declaration.

What the end of the emergency affects: The ending of the PHE will shift control of pricing and coverage of COVID-19 testing and vaccines away from the government and over to the commercial market, analysts from Cowen and Company wrote in a research note.

  • The end of the PHE will end flexibility that allows clinicians registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe controlled substances to patients they haven't seen in-person as long as they've conducted a telehealth visit and other conditions are met, per KFF.
  • Waivers for nursing homes, home care and community-based services could go away if Congress doesn't step in, per the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.
  • One such allowance waives a requirement for a three-day inpatient stay prior to a Medicare-covered stay in a skilled nursing facility.

What the end of the emergency doesn't do: Lawmakers already agreed on a timeline to begin unwinding Medicaid continuous coverage protection April 1, a process that could lead to millions becoming uninsured.

  • The expiration of the emergency also won't impact most telehealth flexibilities. Those — as well as the Acute Care Hospital at Home program — were extended through Dec. 31, 2024 in the omnibus package passed in December.
  • It also doesn't impact FDA's ability to authorize devices, tests, treatments or vaccines for emergency use, and existing emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for products will remain in effect, the agency said.
  • And it doesn't impact authorities that were extended by the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness, or PREP Act, including pharmacist vaccination, testing and treatment authorities, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists points out. Those do not expire until the end of 2024.
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