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Coronavirus: Feds extend public health emergency declaration


The extension continues the loosening of telehealth regulations.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alexander Azar renewed the COVID-19 national public health emergency declaration.

Azar posted a picture of himself on Twitter signing the renewal July 23 and said that the Trump administration will continue its “whole-of-America” response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

This is good news for primary care physicians who worried that the loosening of regulations on telehealth would end leaving them unable to properly treat their patients while keeping both parties safe from the risk of infection.

Earlier this month, a survey was released by The Larry A. Green Center, the Primary Care Collaborative, and 3rd Conversation aimed at gauging how the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has impacted primary care physicians which found that about 70 percent of respondents say they are not ready for reduced or terminated payment for audio and video visits.

Last month a group of 340 organizations sent a letter to Congressional leaders asking for telehealth flexibilities introduced during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic be made permanent.

That letter said that the statuary barriers which Congress waived allowing expanded access to telehealth at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic provided federal agencies with the flexibilities to allow care to be delivered virtually, but if they do not act before the public health emergency expires these flexibilities will immediately disappear.

“As we all work to understand the impact of the waivers put in place in response to the pandemic and assess what should be made permanent, we encourage Congressional leaders to focus on existing statutory barriers that must be immediately addressed to ensure the administration can appropriately transition and modernize telehealth under Medicare and importantly, keep us all from falling off the ‘telehealth cliff,’” Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association said in a news release accompanying the letter.

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