Public Health Emergency is Extended: Blanket Waivers Continue for Now

By A.J. Plunkett

Now that Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar has again renewed the official declaration of a public health emergency (PHE) related to the 2019 novel coronavirus, hospitals and other providers can continue to take advantage of CMS blanket 1135 waivers.

The waivers modify or temporarily suspend certain CMS and HHS regulatory requirements as long as the PHE is ongoing. Hospitals, for instance, have used the blanket waivers to expand the use of telehealth, delay some testing and maintenance of non-critical systems, and use temporary facilities as ways to ease the financial and daily burden of meeting the surge of COVID-19 patients.

First issued in March, the PHE must be revisited every 90 days. The July 24 order came just one day shy of the deadline, prompting healthcare leaders to push the administration for the promised renewal.

Rick Pollack, president and CEO, American Hospital Association, offered appreciation for the support. “With our nation’s hospitals, physicians, nurses and other front-line health care workers intently focused on fighting this battle against the virus, now is not the time to pull back, especially as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have risen in many parts of the country in recent weeks. This action will allow us to continue our efforts to ensure that hospitals and health systems are using every tool available to respond to COVID-19.”

The Joint Commission also has said that it will consider whether a facility was actively in the middle of PHE activities when determining when to conduct a survey to renew accreditation.

A.J. Plunkett is editor of Inside Accreditation & Quality, a Simplify Compliance publication.