Secretary Azar used his authority under the Public Health Service Act to declare a public health emergency across the entire United States on January 31, 2020 giving HHS additional emergency powers to respond to the coronavirus. On March 13, 2020, President Trump declared a national emergency, unlocking additional powers, under section 1135 of the Social Security Act.
On March 5, Congress passed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, waiving restrictions on telehealth in Medicare fee-for-service to enable more seniors to access care from the safety of their own homes during the public health emergency.
On March 21, Congress subsequently passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, providing even greater flexibility for telehealth services.
HHS has used these new powers to unleash a wide array of changes aimed at increasing access to telehealth. Please find them outlined at the pages above.
Medicaid, Commercial and Employee Benefit Plans
Responding to the public health emergency, the governors of forty-eight states, including D.C. have waived – to varying extents – state licensure laws in order to facilitate cross-border care, sometimes explicitly including telehealth. In addition, several states have requested flexibility to incent greater use of telehealth through Medicaid Section 1135 Waivers. Some have also used powers granted under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact for telehealth.