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COVID emergency orders ending: What’s next?


 

It’s the end of an era. The Biden administration announced Jan. 30 that it will be ending the twin COVID-19 emergency declarations, marking a major change in the 3-year-old pandemic.

The orders spanned two presidencies. The Trump administration’s Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar issued a public health emergency in January 2020. Then-President Donald Trump declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency 2 months later. Both emergency declarations – which remained in effect under President Joe Biden – are set to expire May 11.

Read on for an overview of how the end of the public health emergency will trigger multiple federal policy changes.

Changes that affect everyone

  • There will be cost-sharing changes for COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and certain treatments. One hundred–percent coverage for COVID testing, including free at-home tests, will expire May 11.
  • Telemedicine cannot be used to prescribe controlled substances after May 11, 2023.
  • Enhanced federal funding will be phased down through Dec. 31, 2023. This extends the time states must receive federally matched funds for COVID-related services and products, through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023. Otherwise, this would have expired June 30, 2023.
  • Emergency use authorizations for COVID-19 treatments and vaccinations will not be affected and/or end on May 11.

Changes that affect people with private health insurance

  • Many will likely see higher costs for COVID-19 tests, as free testing expires and cost-sharing begins in the coming months.
  • COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters will continue to be covered until the federal government’s vaccination supply is depleted. If that happens, you will need an in-network provider.
  • You will still have access to COVID-19 treatments – but that could change when the federal supply dwindles.

Changes that affect Medicare recipients

  • Medicare telehealth flexibilities will be extended through Dec. 31, 2024, regardless of public health emergency status. This means people can access telehealth services from anywhere, not just rural areas; can use a smartphone for telehealth; and can access telehealth in their homes.
  • Medicare cost-sharing for testing and treatments will expire May 11, except for oral antivirals.

Changes that affect Medicaid/CHIP recipients

  • Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) recipients will continue to receive approved vaccinations free of charge, but testing and treatment without cost-sharing will expire during the third quarter of 2024.
  • The Medicaid continuous enrollment provision will be separated from the public health emergency, and continuous enrollment will end March 31, 2023.

Changes that affect uninsured people

  • The uninsured will no longer have access to 100% coverage for these products and services (free COVID-19 treatments, vaccines, and testing).

Changes that affect health care providers

  • There will be changes to how much providers get paid for diagnosing people with COVID-19, ending the enhanced Inpatient Prospective Payment System reimbursement rate, as of May 11, 2023.
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) potential penalty waivers will end. This allows providers to communicate with patients through telehealth on a smartphone, for example, without violating privacy laws and incurring penalties.

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