President Joe Biden intends to end the national public health emergency related to Covid-11 on May 19. This means that many Americans may have to start paying for Covid-19 testing and treatment. CNN.
The White House said the national public health emergency, which was declared in response to the pandemic, would be extended one last time until May 11.
"This is in line with the administration's previous obligation to notify at least 60 days before the end of the public health emergency," the statement said.
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Emergency Allowed Benefits Will Disappear
The public health emergency has allowed the government to provide free Covid-19 tests, treatment and vaccines to many Americans, and to offer expanded social safety net benefits to help the country cope with the pandemic and minimize its impact.
“People are going to have to start paying some money for things they didn't have to pay for during the emergency,” said Jen Cates, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “That’s the main thing that people will start to notice.”
Most Americans covered by 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 home tests per month from retailers. Medicaid also covers the cost of home testing, although coverage may vary by state.
Medicare and Medicaid also fully cover certain therapeutic procedures, such as monoclonal antibody treatments.
Once the emergency is over, Medicare recipients will typically bear the out-of-pocket costs of home testing and all treatment. However, vaccines will still be provided free of charge, as will testing ordered by a health care provider.
State Medicaid programs will still need to cover doctor-ordered Covid-19 tests and vaccines free of charge. But people may face out-of-pocket costs for treatment.
Those with private insurance may face charges for lab tests even if ordered by a provider. Vaccinations will continue to be free for those who have private insurance and use network providers, but fees may apply for using out-of-network providers.
Covid-19 shots will be free for those with insurance even when the public health emergency ends due to various federal laws including the Affordable Care Act and pandemic era measures, the Inflation Reduction Act and the 2020 relief package of the year.
Privately insured Americans are not charged for monoclonal antibody treatment because it was prepaid by the federal government, although patients may be charged for office visits or treatment. But this is not due to a public health emergency, and free drugs will be available until federal supplies are depleted. The government has already run out of some free medical treatments, so those with private insurance can already take on some of the costs.
The uninsured were able to access free testing, treatment and vaccines through another pandemic relief program. However, federal funding ran out in the spring of 2022, making it difficult for those without insurance to get free services.
Since last year, the federal government has been preparing to bring Covid-19 treatment to the commercial market, in part because Congress has not authorized additional funding to purchase additional vaccines, treatments and tests.
Pfizer and Moderna have already announced that commercial prices for their Covid-19 vaccines are likely to be between $82 and $130 per dose, about three to four times what the federal government paid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The public health emergency also means additional funds for hospitals receiving a 20 percent increase in Medicare's rate of payment for treating Covid-19 patients.
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In addition, Medicare Advantage Plans were required to bill members affected by an emergency who receive care at an out-of-network facility the same as if they were at a network facility.
This will end when the public health emergency expires.
But some of the most significant improvements to public assistance programs due to the pandemic are no longer linked to the public health emergency. Congress cut the tie in December as part of its fiscal year 2023 public funding package.
As part of the March 19 Covid-2020 relief package, states were barred from removing people from Medicaid during a public health emergency in exchange for more federal funds. Since then, Medicaid enrollment has skyrocketed to a record 90 million, and millions are expected to lose coverage once states start checking lists.
A total of about 15 million people could be excluded from Medicaid when the continuous enrollment requirement ends, according to a Department of Health and Human Services analysis released in August. The department estimates that about 8,2 million people will no longer qualify.
However, many of those who will be excluded from Medicaid may qualify for other coverage.
Food stamp recipients received support during the public health emergency. Congress increased food stamp benefits in the 2020 pandemic relief package.
In the spring of 2021, the Biden administration expanded assistance so that households already receiving the maximum amount and those receiving only a small monthly allowance would receive an increase of at least $95 per month.
This additional assistance will end in March, although several states have already stopped providing it.
Congress, however, expanded one set of pandemic flexibilities as part of the public funding package.
More Medicare members can get help with online medicine during a public health emergency. The service is no longer limited to just those who live in rural areas. They can conduct online visits at home instead of going to a medical facility. In addition, beneficiaries can use smartphones and access a wider range of services online.
This service has been extended until 2024.
White House response
The administration says the bills are not needed because they are determined to end emergencies anyway. And she noted that the continuation of declarations until mid-May does not impose any restrictions.
“To be clear, the continuation of these state of emergency declarations until May 11 places no restrictions on individual behavior regarding COVID-19 at all,” the White House said in a statement. “They don’t impose the mandatory use of masks or vaccinations. They do not restrict school or commercial activities. They do not require the use of any medications or tests in response to cases of COVID-19.”
The White House said it would extend the Covid-19 state of emergency for the last time to ensure an orderly shutdown of key government agencies that states, healthcare providers and patients have relied on throughout the pandemic.
A White House official cited the successful vaccination campaign and the decline in Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths as reasons for canceling emergency declarations. The official said the final extension will ensure a smooth transition for health care providers and patients, and noted that healthcare facilities have already begun preparations for the transition.
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The administration is actively reviewing flexible policies that were approved during the public health emergency to determine which ones can remain in place after it is lifted on May 11.
The aide said it would be up to each member to decide what is best for their district and how they vote on the law this week. The announcement of an end to the public health emergency will also lift the border restriction, known as Section 42, which is also likely to spark a standoff on Capitol Hill.
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