Those benefits will disappear when Biden ends COVID-19 national and public health emergencies in May
The White House said Monday that President Joe Biden intends to end the Covid-19 national and public health emergency on May 11. This means that many Americans may have to start paying for COVID-19 testing and treatment after the ads stop.
The White House, in an administration policy statement announcing opposition to two House Republican measures to end states of emergency, said the national emergency powers and public health emergency declared in response to the pandemic would be extended one last time through May 11.
“This liquidation will be consistent with the previous administration’s commitments to give at least 60 days’ notice before ending (the public health emergency),” the statement said.
The benefits allowed by emergencies will disappear
The public health emergency has enabled the government to provide many Americans with free COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines, as well as to offer enhanced social safety net benefits, to help the nation confront the pandemic and reduce 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 Gene Keats, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “That’s the main thing that people will start to notice.”
Most Americans covered by Medicare, Medicare, and private insurance plans have been able to get free COVID-19 tests and vaccines during the pandemic. People covered by Medicare and private insurance could get up to eight at-home tests a month from retailers for free. Medicaid also bears the cost of home tests, though coverage can vary by state.
Those covered by Medicare and Medicaid who have also had certain treatment therapies, such as monoclonal antibodies, are fully covered.
Once the emergency is over, Medicare beneficiaries will generally face out-of-pocket costs for at-home testing and all treatments. However, vaccines will continue to be covered at no cost, as will tests ordered by a healthcare provider.
State Medicaid programs must continue to cover doctor-ordered COVID-19 tests and vaccines for free. But registrants may face out-of-pocket treatment costs.
Those with private insurance may face a fee for lab tests, even if the provider orders them. Immunizations will still be free for those with private insurance who go to in-network providers, but going to out-of-network providers may result in a fee.
COVID-19 vaccines will be free for those with insurance even when the public health emergency ends due to various federal laws, including the Affordable Care Act, pandemic-era measures, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the 2020 relief package.
Americans with private insurance have not been charged for the monoclonal antibody treatment since they have been prepaid by the federal government, although patients may be charged for an office visit or administration of treatment. But this is not related to a public health emergency, and free treatments will be available until federal supplies are depleted. Some government treatments have already run out, so those with private insurance may already be starting to charge some of the cost.
The uninsured were able to access tests, treatments, and vaccines at no cost through a different pandemic relief program. However, federal funding ran out in the spring of 2022, making it more difficult for those without coverage to get free services.
The federal government has been preparing to shift COVID-19 care to the commercial market since last year, 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 COVID-19 vaccines will likely range from $82 to $130 a dose — about three to four times what the federal government paid, according to Keizer.
Medical care provisions
The public health emergency also means extra money for hospitals, which are receiving a 20% increase in the Medicare payment rate for treating Covid-19 patients.
Also, Medicare Advantage plans were required to bill emergency-affected enrollees receiving care at out-of-network facilities as if they were at in-network facilities.
This will end once the public health emergency ends.
But many of the most meaningful epidemiological improvements to public assistance programs are no longer tied to the public health emergency. Congress broke off the call in December as part of the government funding package for fiscal year 2023.
Most importantly, states will now be able to begin processing Medicaid re-designation and de-enrolment of residents who are no longer eligible, starting April 1. They have 14 months to review the eligibility of beneficiaries.
As part of a COVID-19 relief package passed in March 2020, states were prohibited from removing people from Medicaid during a public health emergency in exchange for additional, similar federal funds. Medicaid enrollments have risen to a record 90 million since then, and millions are expected to lose coverage once states begin culling rolls.
Nearly 15 million people could be dropped from Medicaid when the continuous enrollment requirement expires, according to an analysis released in August by the Department of Health and Human Services. The department estimates that about 8.2 million people are no longer eligible, but that 6.8 million people will be terminated even though they are still eligible.
However, many who are disenrolled from Medicaid can qualify for other coverage.
Food Stamp recipients were receiving a payment during the public health emergency. Congress maxed out food stamp benefits relative to their family size in the 2020 pandemic relief package.
The Biden administration expanded the boost in spring 2021 so that families already receiving the maximum amount and those receiving only a small monthly benefit would get a supplement of at least $95 per month.
This additional assistance will expire as of March, although many states have already stopped providing it.
However, Congress did extend one set of pandemic resilience as part of the government funding package.
More people enrolled in Medicare are able to access telehealth care during a public health emergency. The service is no longer restricted only to those who live in rural areas. They can conduct a telehealth visit at home, rather than having to travel to a healthcare facility. In addition, beneficiaries can use smartphones and receive a wide range of services via telehealth.
This will continue now through 2024.
White House response
A senior Democratic aide told CNN that the White House weighed in because House Democrats were nervous about voting against Republican legislation to end the public health emergency that will hit the ground this week without a plan from the Biden administration.
“Democrats have been concerned about the optics of voting against Republicans to end the public health emergency, in the absence of an understanding of whether and how we intend to do it from the White House,” the aide said. “Once we saw this bill, it’s obviously about the White House. So, it was important for them to think about it.”
The administration says the bills are unnecessary because it intends to end the emergency anyway. She pointed out that the continuation of the statements until mid-May is not accompanied by any restrictions.
“To be clear, the continuation of these emergency declarations through May 11 places no restrictions whatsoever on individual behavior regarding COVID-19,” the White House statement said. “They are not enforcing mask mandates or vaccine mandates. They do not restrict school or business operations. They do not require any medications or tests to be used in response to cases of COVID-19.”
The White House said it would extend the COVID-19 emergencies one last time in order to ensure the orderly winding down of key powers that states, healthcare providers and patients have relied on throughout the pandemic.
A White House official cited a successful vaccination campaign and reduced coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths as the rationale for lifting emergency declarations. The official said the final extension would allow for a smooth transition for healthcare providers and patients and noted that healthcare facilities have already started preparing for the transition.
The administration is actively reviewing the flexible policies authorized under the public health emergency to determine which ones could remain in effect after they are lifted on May 11.
The aide told CNN that it is up to each member to decide what is best for their district and how they will vote on the legislation this week. Declaring an end to the public health emergency would also end the border restrictions known as Title 42, which would also potentially lead to a confrontation on Capitol Hill.
CNN Wire & 2023 Cable News Network, Inc. , a Warner Bros. company. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.