On June 24, 2021, the New York State Disaster Emergency declaration expired. Governor Cuomo originally issued the declaration on March 7, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration allowed Cuomo and his team to quickly issue Executive Orders to modify or waive many of the state’s statutes and regulations, including many relevant to the healthcare industry. Notably for healthcare providers, the expiration of the declaration signals the end of the waivers to New York rules and regulations affected by Executive Orders, though both the NYS legislature and administrative agencies are moving to adopt emergency regulations or to pass legislation that may keep some waivers in place.
Thankfully, many of the telehealth changes developed during the pandemic will remain in effect for the foreseeable future. Even before the expiration of the of the Governor’s declaration, the 2021 Budget Bill made certain telehealth changes permanent, including the elimination of restrictions that once limited a qualifying “originating site” (the site where the patient is located) to certain New York State licensed facilities. Effective April 1, 2021, an “originating site” is wherever the patient is located, meaning that the patient may be at home, school, or anywhere else when receiving a telehealth service. The Budget Bill also authorized an “interstate licensure program” that will allow practitioners licensed in contiguous states or states in the Northeast region to provide telehealth services to patients in New York State. While there is some uncertainty about how commercial payors will handle telehealth policies moving forward, they are required, pursuant to NYS Insurance Law, to ensure that they have a “network adequate to meet the telehealth needs” of their insureds in instances when telehealth is medically appropriate.
On June 25, the Department of Health issued emergency regulations under Part 538 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations that will continue to provide reimbursement to Medicaid providers for telehealth services, including services provided via telephone and other audio-only technologies, as long as such services are appropriate to meet the patient’s healthcare needs. The Department of Health also released updated guidance on the use of telehealth, extending the expansions on its use by Medicaid providers for the length of the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. The guidance applies to Medicaid providers and providers contracted with Medicaid managed care plans.
Importantly, the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency is still in effect, so any waivers promulgated by the federal government and its agencies remain in place.
Throughout the pandemic, our office tracked the Governor’s Executive Orders which affected among other things, state licensure and telehealth rules. We will continue to track and provide updates as things develop under New York and federal law. Please reach out if you have any questions about how the end of the New York State Disaster Emergency declaration may affect your operations.