illustration of person with mask in front of coronavirus
Credit: Texas A&M University College of Engineering

The COVID-19 public health emergency should be extended past Jan. 11 “so that long-term and post-acute care providers can continue to offer the most efficient and effective care possible and so our nation’s most vulnerable population continues to have access to the long-term care they need through Medicaid,” American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living President and CEO Mark Parkinson wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Wednesday.

AHCA / NCAL also asked for more time to help states prepare for redetermining Medicaid eligibility for millions of beneficiaries when the PHE ends, for which states may not be prepared, the groups noted. Twenty-two states do not have an unwinding PHE plan, and an additional 10 have “cursory” presentations on what their plans will contain when developed, according to AHCA / NCAL, citing information from Georgetown University.

Millions of Medicaid beneficiaries receive long-term services and supports in their homes or in the community, such as in assisted living communities, through Medicaid waiver programs, Parkinson told Becerra.

“We strongly encourage the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services within HHS to work with states on strategies to ensure long-term care populations are made a priority,” he wrote.

COVID-19 still remains a threat, especially to older adults and those with underlying health conditions, Parkinson told Becerra. “COVID-19 variants continue to emerge, and your administration and other public health experts have issued repeated warnings about a potential surge of cases this fall and winter. …Coming out of the holiday season, we need to ensure our healthcare infrastructure can quickly adapt, especially in the midst of a historic labor crisis in long-term care brought on by the pandemic,” he said.  

HHS has committed to giving 60-days’ notice to states and other stakeholders about when the PHE will expire, meaning that HHS should indicate by mid-November whether it plans to review the PHE.

The PHE related to COVID-19 has been extended 11 times since it began Jan. 31, 2020. Previous HHS Secretary Alex Azar initiated it and then renewed it three times in 2020 — on April 21, July 23 and Oct. 2 — as well as on Jan. 7, 2021. Becerra previously renewed it three times in 2021 — on April 15, July 19 and Oct. 15, 2021 — and four times in 2022 — on Jan. 14, April 12, July 15 and Oct. 13.