Extension of the federal public health emergency

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra extended the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) for an additional 90 days. The new expiration date for the COVID-19 PHE is now set for Monday, October 18, 2021. Currently, it is expe?cted that HHS will continue to renew its declaration of the PHE every 90 days through the end of 2021 and will provide 60 days' notice prior to ending it. As noted in previous updates, as long as the PHE is in place, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) may retain its 1135 waivers. However, CMS could decide to phase out other waivers prior to the end of the PHE if it determines they are no longer needed.

In response to the continuation of the federal public health emergency MHCA will be requesting extensions from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services of the current active state waivers that are scheduled to end on August 29, 2021. These waivers include:
  • Enforcement of 9.A.4. and 18.B.1 of Chapter 110: Regulations Governing the Licensing and Functioning of Skilled Nursing Facilities and Nursing Facilities but will still require that facilities have sufficient staff to meet the needs of the residents. 
  • Waive the current State requirement that a paid feeding assistant course be at be taught in a 16-hour classroom format and will allow for this course to be taught consistent with Federal OBRA regulations that require that the State approved PFA course must be taught in no less than 8 hours. 
  • Permit  ancillary staff to assist with the answering of call bells and acting upon simple task requests, making unoccupied beds, assisting staff with lifting, moving, and transferring of residents provided that the facility ensures that the staff are competent for whatever tasks they are being requested to do.   
  • Include Personal Support Specialist (PSS) in the definition of a Direct Care Provider in the Definitions section of Chapter 1 of the Regulations Governing the Licensing and Functioning of Skilled Nursing Facilities and Nursing Facilities.  
  • Permit CRMAs to administer pre-filled insulin medications or insulin pens under the onsite supervision of a licensed nurse.
  • Permit a CRMA to continue to work as a CRMA for up to 90 days post certification expiration and up to 6 months post certification if a modified recertification was conducted at the facility that at a minimum included a qualified in-house staff person (RN) conducting a competency assessment on the CRMA staff member which includes a med-pass observation prior to the certificate expiration.
  • Waive enforcement of employee evaluations while this current State and National Disaster Declaration are in effect.
  • ?Waive its requirements for continuing education during the time the National and State declarations of Emergency are in effect.
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