People walk past a walk-in COVID-19 testing site on July 28, 2022 in New York City.
Liao pan | China news service | Getty Images
The Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday laid out what will change and what will remain the same when the three-year Covid public health emergency ends in May.
Health Secretary Xavier Becerra officially informed state governors on Thursday that he was renewing the declaration one last time, but wanted to let the state of emergency expire on May 11. The White House informed Congress of these plans last week.
HHS officials speaking to reporters outlined what the public can expect when the emergency ends.
- Those with private health insurance may have to pay for Covid testing, both over-the-counter and lab tests, depending on the plan.
- Seniors on Medicare Part B pay for over-the-counter testing, although the program covers lab testing.
- Hospitals will lose flexibility to expand capacity in response to surges.
- The federal government can no longer require laboratories to report Covid test results to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Covid vaccines and antivirals like Paxlovid will remain free for everyone, regardless of insurance status, until the current federal stockpile is exhausted.
- Extended telemedicine through Medicare will also remain in place through December 2024 under federal spending laws passed in December. But it will end thereafter without congressional intervention.
The Food and Drug Administration will continue to have the power to quickly approve Covid vaccines, tests and treatments through its separate emergency powers.
Millions of people are also at risk of losing their Medicaid health coverage this year as the federal protections that have kept people covered during the pandemic come to an end. These safeguards were once tied to the public health emergency, but Congress then decided to phase them out separately.
In short, states can begin throwing people out of Medicaid as early as April if they no longer meet eligibility requirements for the public health insurance program. HHS plans to open a special enrollment phase to allow these individuals to apply for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
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Although Covid vaccines and treatments will remain free for everyone after the public health emergency ends, this may change for uninsured adults when federal supplies run out.
The Biden administration plans to stop buying vaccines and treatments for the public as early as this fall, in part because Congress failed to allocate additional funding. If the federal government pulls out, vaccines and treatments will be bought and distributed through the private market.
That means Pfizer and Moderna sell the recordings directly to healthcare providers, and whether you pay depends on whether you have insurance.
Those covered by the Affordable Care Act and Medicare will continue to receive the recordings free of charge. Those receiving Medicaid will receive the shots for free until September 2024, after which coverage will vary from state to state.
Adults who aren’t insured will likely have to pay for the shots when supplies run out, although the White House has said it is developing plans to help them.