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As COVID-19 Cases Rise, Emergency Period Set to Expire

Even as COVID-19 cases spike in Texas, Florida and California, the United States’ national emergency period is set to expire in just weeks.  Will policymakers reassess their timeline?

The Trump administration has issued several declarations, including a Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Emergency scheduled to conclude July 25.  The declarations lay out policies designed to help communities fighting COVID-19, including provisions such as:

  • Expanding telemedicine capabilities by allowing reimbursement for telephone and video appointments with health care providers
  • Allowing hospitals to add staff and beds without lengthy permitting procedures
  • Increasing funding to Medicaid to ensure the health of low-income patients
  • Reducing restrictions on nurse practitioners to boost the health care workforce
  • Allowing for at-home infusions of some medications to keep at-risk Medicare patients safe and healthy during the pandemic.

When these emergency declarations expire, so too could some of these flexibilities – undermining patients’ ability to access care even as COVID-19 continues to threaten communities across the country.

In a formal statement, the American Hospital Association requested an extension of the emergency period “so health care providers can continue to offer the most efficient and effective care possible during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.”  The association suggested extending the declaration until COVID-19 deaths dropped to fewer than 500 per day for at least two weeks and until supplies chains can continuously provide necessary lab supplies, personal protective equipment and COVID-19 treatments.

Administration officials have extended emergency declaration timelines in the past.  The initial Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Emergency declaration, for example, was initially scheduled to expire in April before officials pushed the expiration date back to late July.  

As single-day cases in the United States surpass global records, people look to policymakers to help ensure that communities, health care providers and medical centers have the resources they need to safely provide necessary care.