President Joe Biden intends to end the Covid-19 national and public health emergency on May 11, the White House said on Monday. That means many Americans may have to start paying for Covid-19 testing and treatment after the declaration stops.
In an administration policy statement, the White House announced opposition to two House Republican measures to end the state of emergency, saying the period for national emergency and public health emergency authorities to declare a response to a pandemic would last until May 11.
“This closure will be in line with the government’s previous commitment to give at least 60 days’ notice before (a public health emergency) is terminated,” the statement said.
The public health emergency has enabled the government to provide free Covid-19 testing, treatment, and vaccines to many Americans, as well as enhanced social safety net benefits to help the nation respond to the pandemic and minimize its impact.
“People are going to have to start paying some money for things they don’t have to pay in an emergency,” said Jen Kates, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “That’s the main thing people are going to start noticing.”
most americans receive Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance plans have been able to get free Covid-19 tests and vaccines during the pandemic. Those with Medicare and private insurance can get up to eight free at-home tests a month from retailers. Medicaid also covers the cost of home testing, though coverage varies by state.
Those covered by Medicare and Medicaid also have some treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies, fully covered.
Once the emergency is over, Medicare beneficiaries typically face out-of-pocket costs for home testing and all treatment. However, vaccines will continue to be covered at no cost, as will testing requested by healthcare providers.
The state Medicaid program will have to continue to provide free Covid-19 tests and vaccines ordered by doctors. But enrollees may face out-of-pocket costs for treatment.
Those with private insurance may face bills for lab tests, even if they are ordered by a provider. Vaccinations will continue to be free for people with private insurance who go to in-network providers, but there may be a cost for going to out-of-network providers.
Covid-19 vaccinations will be provided for free to those with insurance, even as the public health emergency ends with various federal laws, including the Affordable Care Act and Pandemic-Time Measures, the Inflation Reduction Act and the 2020 Relief Package.
Americans with private insurance do not pay for mAb treatments because they are prepaid by the federal government, although patients may have to pay for doctor visits or treatment management. But this has nothing to do with the public health emergency, and the free treatment will be provided until federal supplies run out. The government has run out of some treatments, so those with private insurance may already be covering some of the cost.
The uninsured have been able to get free testing, treatment and vaccines through different pandemic relief programs. However, federal funding runs out in the spring of 2022, making it harder for those without insurance to access free services.
The federal government has been preparing to move Covid-19 care to the commercial market since last year, in part because Congress has yet to authorize additional funds to buy additional vaccines, treatments and tests.
Pfizer and Moderna have announced that the commercial price of their Covid-19 vaccines could range from $82 to $130 per dose — about three to four times what the federal government pays, according to Kaiser.
The public health emergency has also meant additional funding for hospitals, which have seen a 20% increase in Medicare payment rates for treating Covid-19 patients.
Additionally, Medicare Advantage plans are required to bill enrollees who are affected by an emergency and receive care at an out-of-network facility as if they were at an in-network facility.
This will end once the public health emergency is over.
But several of the most meaningful pandemic improvements to public assistance programs are no longer tied to public health emergencies. Congress severed that link in December as part of a fiscal year 2023 government funding package.
Most notably, beginning April 1, states can now begin processing Medicaid redetermination and cancellation of residents who are no longer eligible. They have 14 months to review the eligibility of their beneficiaries.
As part of the Covid-19 relief package passed in March 2020, states were prohibited from kicking people out of Medicaid during the public health emergency in exchange for additional federal matching funds. Since then, Medicaid enrollment has soared to a record 90 million people, and millions more are expected to lose coverage once states start phasing them out.
A total of about 15 million people could drop out of Medicaid when the continuous enrollment requirement ends, according to an analysis released in August by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The department estimates that about 8.2 million people will no longer be eligible, but 6.8 million people will have their eligibility terminated even though they are still eligible.
However, many people who withdraw from Medicaid may be eligible for other coverage.
The number of food stamp recipients has been increasing during the public health emergency. Congress increased food stamp benefits to the maximum appropriate for their household size in the 2020 Pandemic Relief Package.
The Biden administration expanded the benefits in the spring of 2021 so that families already receiving the maximum amount and those receiving only a small amount of benefits each month would receive at least $95 a month.
This extra aid is due to end in March, although several states have stopped providing it.
However, Congress expanded a set of pandemic flexibilities as part of the government funding package.
More Medicare enrollees are able to access care via telehealth during public health emergencies. The service is no longer limited to people living in rural areas. They can conduct telemedicine visits from home without having to travel to a medical facility. Additionally, beneficiaries can use their smartphones and access a wider range of services through telemedicine.
These will now run until 2024.
A senior Democratic aide told CNN that the White House stepped in because House Democrats were concerned about voting against Republican legislation to end the public health emergency that was due to be considered this week, and that the Biden administration had no plans.
“Democrats are concerned that voting against Republicans will end the public health emergency because they don’t understand if and how we intend to do that from the White House,” the aide said. Relevant. So, for them, the trade-off is important.”
The government argues that the bills are unnecessary because it intends to end the emergency anyway. It noted that there were no restrictions on extending the declaration until mid-May.
“To be clear, extending these emergency declarations through May 11 does not impose any restrictions on the behavior of individuals related to COVID-19,” the White House statement said. No restrictions on schools or businesses. They don’t need to use any drugs or tests for COVID-19 cases.”
The White House said it would extend the Covid-19 state of emergency one last time to ensure an orderly end to key authorities that states, healthcare providers and patients have relied on throughout the pandemic.
A White House official cited successful vaccination campaigns and a decline in Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths as reasons for lifting the emergency declaration. The official said the eventual delay would allow for a smooth transition for health care providers and patients, noting that health care organizations have already begun preparing for the transition.
The government is actively reviewing the flexibility policies mandated under the Public Health Emergency to determine which policies can remain after the May 11 cancellation.
Each member will decide what is best for their district and how they will vote on legislation this week, the aide told CNN. Declaring the end of the public health emergency would also end border restrictions known as Title 42, which could also set up a showdown on Capitol Hill.
This story has been updated with more details.