May 13, 2022
On April 12, 2022, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) extended the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) for an additional 90-day period, through mid-July 2022. With the renewal of the PHE, employer plan sponsors must continue to cover certain in-network COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccination services with no cost-sharing to participants.
The Secretary of HHS has the authority to determine when a PHE exists. A PHE may be extended indefinitely in 90-day intervals, which may be modified, shortened, or extended. The COVID-19 PHE was first declared on January 31, 2020, and has been continuously renewed for 90-day durations. President Biden has indicated that the Administration would provide 60-days advance notice prior to the expiration, which HHS reaffirmed when announcing this most recent extension.
As a reminder, the PHE differs from the COVID-19 National Emergency. Former President Trump declared that the COVID-19 outbreak constituted a National Emergency that began on March 1, 2020. As established by the National Emergencies Act, the declaration of a National Emergency may last for up to one year, although it may be modified, shortened or extended. President Biden initially renewed the National Emergency for one-year on February 24, 2021, before renewing again on February 18, 2022 for an additional one-year duration. The National Emergency may be terminated sooner, but as of now it will end automatically on February 25, 2023, unless it is renewed again by the President.
More information on the differences between the COVID-19 PHE and National Emergency is available in our March 2022 webinar.
Employer plan sponsors must continue to cover in-network COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccines at no cost sharing to participants for the duration for the PHE, now extended through mid-July 2022. The Biden Administration has indicated they will provide 60-days’ notice prior to renewing or closing the PHE. This would provide employer plan sponsors and other impacted stakeholders with a window of time to prepare for, communicate, and unwind plan requirements based on the PHE. Despite this commitment, however, employer plans will need to monitor whether the Administration chooses to close both the COVID-19 PHE and the National Emergency simultaneously or separately, and the respective timing.
A detailed discussion of the timeline considerations for unwinding the COVID-19 National Emergency and PHE and the associated implications for employer plan sponsors is available in our March 2022 webinar.
- Renewal of COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, April 2022
- Renewal of COVID-19 National Emergency, February 2022
- Business Group on Health Webinar: Regulatory & Compliance Update, March 2022
- Kaiser Family Foundation: What Happens When COVID-19 Emergency Declarations End?
If you have questions, comments, or concerns about these or other regulatory and compliance issues, please contact us.
We provide this material for informational purposes only; it is not a substitute for legal advice.