5 Key Takeaways from VHAN’s PHE Town Hall

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) waived or modified health regulations to better equip hospitals, primary care clinics and other care settings to help prevent and treat cases of COVID-19. Many of these waivers were tied to the Public Health Emergency (PHE), which is set to expire on May 11, 2023.

On April 12, VHAN held a Town Hall to discuss the implications of unwinding from the PHE, as well as ways you can adjust to these changes and sustain quality patient care with minimal interruptions. Below are some key takeaways from the session:

Medicaid enrollment protection. As of April 1, states are required to verify that patients qualify for Medicaid; if they don’t, they must reapply. In Tennessee, this change affects 1.8 million people, over half of which are children. Town Hall experts predicted that during the first few months of the verification process many people will lose health coverage—and some may lose it unnecessarily. Providers should be prepared that some patients might need assistance with the reapplication process.

Many telehealth flexibilities will expire. The COVID-19 PHE put in place dozens of waivers and flexibilities that made it easier for providers to deliver care through a variety of digital platforms. Effective May 12, 2023, health care organizations should adopt platforms that meet HIPAA requirements and only partner with vendors willing to sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA). Platforms that do not meet these requirements include Facebook Live, FaceTime, Twitch, and Tik Tok. If possible, practices should engage IT and Compliance leaders to confirm that the current platform meets the updated requirements or to help select compliant technology.

Blanket waiver for Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) 3-day inpatient stay will end. However, there is an exception for ACOS in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) who are in downside risk and have been approved for the ACO SNF 3-day waiver. In that case, this waiver continues to be available for patients attributed to the ACO.

Home health initiation updates. Following the end of the PHE, home health initial comprehensive assessments may be completed by rehabilitation skilled professionals (PT, OT, SLP) only when the patient is not receiving nursing services as part of their plan of care. For patients who are receiving nursing care, the initial comprehensive assessment may only be completed by a registered nurse.

Discharge planning requirements return for all levels of care. These requirements state that organizations must assist patients, their families, or the patient’s representative in selecting a post-acute care provider by using and sharing data that includes quality measures and resource use measures. The data must be relevant and applicable to the patient’s goals of care and treatment preferences.

You can watch the full Town Hall recording here to get more information about these updates and others, including home health and hospice rules, Stark and Anti-Kickback Waivers and more. Other helpful resources can be found below: 

If you need additional support around the PHE expiration, please reach out to your Network Contact to see how VHAN can help.

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