Among the important tasks on the table for the recently inaugurated Biden administration is to reconsider the Medicare regulatory changes enacted by the Trump administration to fight the COVID-19 pandemic between July 25, 2020, and January 8, 2021. There were a total of 244 such regulatory changes and nearly all Medicare providers have been impacted by at least one COVID-19 related new rule, according to a Commonwealth Fund report.
- Provider industry groups want many of the temporary changes to become part of the permanent Medicare regulatory landscape, especially when the changes relate to telehealth. There were 19 changes associated with telehealth, the Commonwealth Fund report found. The American College of Physicians (ACP) pushed for the continuation of payment parity between telehealth and in-person visits even after HHS lifts the public health emergency and that the agency permanently extends the policy waiving geographical and originating-site restrictions. The changes were introduced to support healthcare providers responding to COVID-19 and its impact on care delivery at the time.
- The report said that due to the changes, hospitals (67), post-acute care providers (62), and clinicians (48) were the most affected. The most common themes among the regulatory changes included payment systems and quality programs (58), conditions of participation (55), provider capacity and workforce (38), and benefits and care management (33).
- The majority (86 percent) of new rules, including popular telehealth and alternate care site changes, are temporary and slated to expire with the HHS-declared public health emergency or even sooner depending on the change.
- “The Biden administration has inherited this slate of temporary COVID-related Medicare regulatory changes and will have to decide whether and how to extend these policies given the state of the pandemic and its impact on health care providers,” the Commonwealth Fund said in the report.
- It is possible that Congress will consider legislation that addresses at least some of the temporary changes — to modify, extend, or terminate them,” the Commonwealth Fund stated.