Health Policy News March 2023

The March edition of Health Policy News is dedicated to two potential implications for consumers due to the end of the Public Health Emergency (PHE) – both related to healthcare costs and access to services. There are two pivotal PHE unwinding milestones in the coming weeks: 

  • April 1, 2023- The first date that states are allowed to resume Medicaid redetermination in over three years.
  • May 11, 2023- The formal expiration of the Public Health Emergency.

The two topics we are focusing on in this edition are the potential cost and access impacts on COVID-19 vaccine and testing, and changes to access to services via telehealth, in particular access to buprenorphine. We chose these topics given the likely immediate impact on consumers when the PHE ends next month.  

As a reminder, HPN has been covering the impending end of the PHE for the past year and our other pieces on this topic can be found on the blog.  

The End of the PHE and the Impact on Vaccine & COVID-19 Testing Costs

On January 31, 2020, Secretary Alex Azar of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared a nationwide Public Health Emergency (PHE) related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the past three years the PHE has been renewed every 90 days, but the expiration date is approaching on May 11, 2023. Last month, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued the anticipated 60-day wind down notice and outlined forthcoming changes to PHE policies as a result of the expiration of the emergency provisions. The PHE granted a number of important health care flexibilities that have been imperative in combating the spread of the virus and ensuring Americans maintained their healthcare coverage. With the close of this chapter, many Americans will lose pandemic-era services, including access to free COVID-19 test kits, vaccinations, and treatments. To read more about how CMS is hoping to provide some continued protections for consumers, click here.  

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New Federal Proposed Telehealth Rules will Affect Access to Medication for Opioid Use Disorder

Among those flexibilities that will expire at the end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency is a waiver of the requirement to conduct an in-person examination prior to prescribing controlled substances via telehealth, including via telephone. This flexibility has allowed providers to begin buprenorphine regimen induction for patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) without first examining them in-person.  To read more about the forthcoming changes, and potential impact, click here.

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