Legislature Acts to Extend Pandemic Waivers of Government Regulations

Harrisburg – – The state Senate today voted to extend waivers of an array of regulatory statutes, rules and regulations to aid in Pennsylvania’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Senator Mario Scavello (R-40). The bill is headed to the governor for enactment following approval by the House of Representatives. 

The waivers affecting health and human services, as well as consumers and employees, were due to expire tomorrow. Senate actions to amend and pass House Bill 1861 extends the waivers until March 31, 2022.

“In dealing with the pandemic, dozens of regulations were set aside to ensure delivery of health care and other services, and help employers and workers during a difficult period,” Scavello said. “As long as people are benefiting from these waivers and the pandemic isn’t fully defeated, it’s important to extend them.”

In May, voters stripped Gov. Tom Wolf of the authority he claimed to extend emergency declarations without approval of the General Assembly. Delivering on a promise to the people that we work better together, the General Assembly initially extended these waivers as part of the budget in June.

Approval of the following waivers is critical to providing flexibility in managing the pandemic during a workforce shortage crisis:

Waivers Benefiting Consumers and Employees

  • Suspending the requirements for initial patient evaluations for buprenorphine narcotics treatment to be completed via telehealth.
  • Allowing up to 28 days of take-home medications for patients on stable dosages if deemed appropriate by their physician.
  • Quicker access to home health care and home care services by allowing nurse practitioners to sign eligibility forms.
  • Telehealth access for individuals seeking behavioral and mental health services.
  • Flexibilities for visitation in foster care and group home settings for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Temporary removal of barriers to employment by waiving in-person meetings and allowing electronic signature requirements.
  • Flexibility in scheduling and notice for unemployment compensation hearings.
  • Allowing for telephonic testimony and use of documents in unemployment compensation referee hearings. 

Waivers Aiding the Work of Health Care Facilities and Services

  • The ability for acute care hospitals to use alternative locations for overflow, quarantining, and surveillance efforts to help manage the influx of patients in their emergency departments.
  • Flexibilities in staffing health care facilities.
  • The ability for pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Reimbursement for those providing telehealth through the Medical Assistance program.
  • The ability to maintain COVID-19 surveillance efforts within childcare and congregate settings to reduce spread and respond to outbreaks.

Waivers that have not been extended through March 2022 must be identified by state agencies and notice must be provided that those provisions will no longer be suspended and the date of suspension.

A final report from agencies on the waivers extended through March 2022 must be issued and posted on the agency’s publicly accessible website by May 1, 2022.

“Voters approved a constitutional amendment this spring to give the General Assembly more decision-making ability in responding to the pandemic. Acting to extend these vital waivers demonstrates the voters’ trust was not misplaced,” Scavello said.

 

Contact: Christine Zubeck czubeck@pasen.gov (717) 787-6123