The healthcare implications of the ending of the national COVID emergency

If the next Congress votes to end the COVID-19 national emergency declaration, it would end some of the flexibility that Medicare, Medicaid, and COBRA have been able to exercise during the emergency.

Why it matters: The vote could come as soon as Republicans take control of the House of Representatives next year, although President Biden would likely veto it. (Look for my article with Axios’ Andrew Solender on the politics of voting, coming soon to Axios AM.)

  • Quick reminder: Many health groups are concerned about the resolution of the health emergency, but that’s a separate statement with different implications. Don’t confuse them!

Here’s what you need to know on the implications of ending the national emergency:

  • For the healthcare sector, the key impact is in the deadlines for filing claims for COBRA and flexible spending accounts, said Lindsay Wiley, professor of healthcare law at UCLA.
  • Specifically, the extensions would be reset for certain deadlines for enrolling in COBRA health plans, the date for paying COBRA premiums, the deadline for employers to notify individuals of their COBRA continuation rights, and the timeline for filing claims for COBRA , said James Gelfand, President of the ERISA Industry Committee.
  • Under the emergency agency, HHS may also waive requirements for federal health programs to facilitate patient care, such as: B. the rules according to which doctors must be licensed in the state in which they provide services.
  • States have been anticipating an end to that emergency flexibility, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise for them to adjust their Medicaid programs again, said Jack Rollins, director of federal policy at the National Association of Medicaid Directors.
  • However, one issue could be one of the waivers that allow household members to become paid caregivers for Medicaid home community services.
  • “It’s less clear what can happen without an emergency agency,” Rollins said. “States will have questions about this.”
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Between the lines: Wiley said members of Congress who could vote to end the statement are likely not so much focused on the programs as making a statement that the country has returned to normal.

  • That seems to be the case for two 12 Senate Democrats Axios spoke to This Week, who voted “yes” to the measure to end the COVID emergency, which passed the Senate in November.
  • “[The pandemic] is over. I’ll keep voting until it’s behind us,” Senator Joe Manchin said. “We should return to normal life.”
  • Sen. Tim Kaine said the Biden administration gave senators no good reason to keep it in place — just sending a memo to bureaus urging a “no” 10 minutes after the vote.
  • “I just felt that if they don’t care enough to tell us to vote against, then I will vote in favor, knowing that HHS’s major public health emergency is still ongoing,” said Kaine. If there’s an effort to do that next year, well, what does the White House have to say about that?”

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