AAFP praises pandemic flexibilities and recommends future policies on vaccines, payments, telehealth and more.
Federal regulators should consider policies to avoid “considerable disruptions” in the U.S. health care system, before the end of the public health emergency (PHE) declared for the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
AAFP appreciates the emergency waivers, flexibilities, coverage policies, and other actions that helped family physicians and other frontline clinicians to care for patients and keep their practices open, academy Board Chair Ada D Stewart, MD, FAAFP, said in the letter.
“Given that many of these policy changes have been in place for two years and, in some cases, have significantly altered the health care coverage and delivery landscape, transitioning away from the federal PHE could cause considerable disruptions to physicians and their patients,” Stewart said in the letter. “To prevent disruption across the health care system, it is vital that HHS implements a transparent, intentional, and equity-focused approach to ending the PHE and unwinding its associated policy changes.”
The AAFP letter came out before the current PHE deadline of July 16. HHS had a deadline of May 16 to notify the public that the PHE would end in 60 days. But that deadline came and went with no formal announcement, so the PHE is expected to last beyond July 16, but how long is unknown.
AAFP suggested the PHE continue at least through the end of 2022, and publish a plan outlining what will change when it ends. That plan should have a public comment period of at least 60 days and should work with other federal departments, such as Treasury and Labor, to minimize disruptions and address gaps in health care coverage and access.
The 17-page letter has a number of recommendations on multiple issues including the roles of various federal agencies, vaccine availability, and rules affecting Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. Among the suggestions:
The AAFP recommendations strongly support telehealth flexibilities that will last at least 151 days after the end of the PHE. Going forward, the federal regulators should: