The nationwide public health emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic has again been extended, this time until Jan. 11, 2023. While widely expected, the extension may have some regulatory implications as the PHE crosses into the new year.
Specifically, the new expiration date raises questions for PTs and PTAs around the issue of virtual supervision of PTAs — something not permitted under normal circumstances but allowed under the PHE. According to statements from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this allowance would continue "until the end of the year in which the public health emergency ends," which could mean that even if the PHE were to be lifted at the Jan. 11 expiration date, PTs and PTAs would be permitted to engage in virtual supervision for almost an entire year.
Or does it? APTA Director of Health Policy & Payment Kate Gilliard says there are no guarantees as of now.
"While it could be that this supervision waiver would continue until the end of 2023, HHS has also said that it will provide 60 days' notice before the PHE ends if it intends to change any rules," Gilliard said. "What that means is that HHS could still announce a change between now and Nov. 11 — or could announce a change in the future if the PHE is extended again."
Another major implication: The ability of PTs and PTA to use telehealth for Medicare patients allowed under the PHE. That permission is set to end 151 days past the expiration of the PHE.
The key, Gilliard says, is to keep abreast of any HHS announcements. APTA will keep members informed of any developments, but PTs and PTAs also are encouraged to keep tabs on HHS by way of its news page.
The latest extension, announced by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, marks the 11th time the PHE was renewed since it was first declared on Jan. 27, 2020.