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Recent COVID-19 Public Health Emergency extension raises possibility of future extension into 2022 and impact on temporary rules

On July 19, 2021, Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra announced that the Public Health Emergency (PHE) declaration for COVID‑19 will be renewed for another 90 days, beginning on July 20, the date the PHE was previously scheduled to expire. The PHE is now extended through October 18, 2021. This renewal was expected and is consistent with the administration’s announcement that the PHE would likely continue through at least the end of 2021. 

The big question now is whether another 90-day PHE renewal will be issued in October. General thought on the subject was that the PHE was unlikely to continue beyond 2021. The spread of the Delta variant, however, is calling those expectations into question. An extension of the PHE into 2022 would have the effect of extending certain temporary rules adopted during the PHE until at least December 31, 2022.

For example, last year the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) modified temporarily the "direct supervision" requirements for MRI and CT scans with contrast media administered to allow – until the latter of (a) the end of the calendar year in which the PHE ends or (b) December 31, 2021 – the supervising physician or non-physician practitioner's immediate availability for supervision of those tests through virtual presence via real-time, interactive audio/video communications technology. 

It is worth noting that in the Calendar Year (CY) 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) proposed rule, comments were requested on whether the rule permitting virtual presence via real-time, interactive audio/video communications technology should be made permanent, should continue in place for a short additional time to facilitate a gradual sunset of the policy, or should simply end on December 31 of the year the PHE ends.

We won't know of course until October whether the PHE will be extended into 2022. And we also won't see the final MPFS rule until the end of October or early November.

Tags

health care & life sciences, phe, diagnostic radiology, supervision rules

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