AMA and other health groups lobby to extend public health emergency

Public health emergency set to expire in July without extension

The American Medical Association in conjunction with the American Nurses Association and the American Hospital Association wrote Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra lobbying for another renewal of the Public Health Emergency, currently set to expire July 16.

Becerra told health care leaders after the first extension that he would give them a 60-day warning if it will not be renewed, and that deadline is May 16.

“We urge the Administration to maintain the PHE until we experience an extended period of greater stability and, guided by science and data, can safely unwind the resulting flexibilities,” the letter states in part.

The biggest challenge for many states and payers will be the loss of the 6.2% increase in federal Medicaid matching funds that came with the caveat that no one could be dropped off the coverage rolls during the PHE. When the PHE ends, states will have to recalculate eligibility for Medicaid recipients, which could take months.

The PHE also removed many barriers to telehealth, allow Medicare reimbursement and elimination of various site and security requirements, giving doctors and patients the ability to use whatever technology they had access to. While the Biden administration has pushed to make some of these changes permanent, congressional action is required.

While much of the country has moved on as if the pandemic was over, the CDC shows a rising number of cases in recent weeks, with a rise in hospitalizations, as well.

These rising numbers concern the professional medical groups, who point out that new variants may emerge that strain hospital and health systems.

“We urge the administration to maintain the PHE until we experience an extended period of greater stability and, guided by science and data, can safely unwind the resulting flexibilities,” the letter states.