Declaration of public health emergency will now last well into October
Late last week, Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar renewed the Public Health Emergency (PHE) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The PHE renewal became effective on July 25, 2020, and will expire on October 23, 2020.
For occupational therapy practitioners this means that federal waiver flexibilities granted to health care providers earlier in the spring may continue until the PHE expires to better serve patient needs and streamline the efficient delivery of health care services during the pandemic. These flexibilities include the allowance to perform telehealth in both outpatient and institutional settings, the ability for occupational therapists to open home health cases and conduct the Start of Care for home health agencies, and granting OTAs the ability to perform maintenance therapy in outpatient settings. Flexibilities granted to other providers, such as hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, and inpatient rehabilitation facilities, will also continue for the duration of the PHE.
Section 319 of the Public Health Service Act grants authority to the HHS Secretary, who may determine that a disease or disorder presents a public health emergency. This is the second renewal of the COVID-19 PHE; the previous renewal was effective April 26, 2020.