As States Lift Restrictions, Expiration of COVID-19 Telehealth Waivers May Be On The Horizon, Underscoring Need For Proactive Planning

Since the onset of the COVID-19 public health emergency in March 2020, healthcare providers have operated under a variety of waived or relaxed regulatory requirements, particularly as it relates to licensing, telehealth, and Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement requirements. However, as the pandemic wanes, and as state restrictions and emergency orders are lifted, many regulatory waivers are set to expire unless permanently adopted by each jurisdiction.

For example, in Florida, the most recent Executive Order pertaining to the COVID-19 public health emergency, Executive Order #2021-94, was issued on April 27, 2021, was not renewed, and has since expired due to an automatic 60 days sunset period. As such, the healthcare related waivers in Florida that were reliant upon the state of emergency will be immediately impacted. The expiration of Florida’s declaration of a state of emergency means that, except in limited circumstances, Florida providers may no longer be eligible to prescribe controlled substances via telehealth, as would have otherwise have been permitted by emergency orders issued by the state’s Department of Health pursuant to the Department’s authority to waive certain requirements under the state of emergency declaration. Moreover, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, which manages the state’s Medicaid program, has issued notices concerning the reinstatement of various Medicaid requirements.

Key Takeaways
Providers reliant on telehealth should take steps to prepare and plan for the potential expiration of COVID-19 telehealth waivers if they have not already done so. Many telehealth businesses have been developed over the course of the past 16 months which will be substantially impacted by the expiration of the public health emergency, as providers have rendered care substantially enabled by the waivers.

In addition to state telehealth requirements, which often set forth the modality and reimbursement requirements for telehealth encounters, providers prescribing controlled substances via telehealth must remain attuned to both state waiver expirations, as well as any modification to, or expiration of, the federal public health emergency, which affects the status of the Controlled Substances Act and telehealth prescribing.

How Frier Levitt Can Help
Frier Levitt has advised clients in developing compliant telehealth models both before and during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Contact us to review your model’s compliance, and to make contingency arrangements for the expiration of a COVID-19 waiver upon which you are relying to render care.

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