(WASHINGTON) — The Biden administration will end both the COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency on May 11, the White House informed Congress on Monday night.
The current public health emergency is in place through April, while the national emergency is in place until March. They began in 2020, soon after the onset of the pandemic.
“At present, the Administration’s plan is to extend the emergency declarations to May 11, and then end both emergencies on that date. This wind down would align with the Administration’s previous commitments to give at least 60 days’ notice prior to termination of the PHE,” the administration wrote in a letter to Congress.
“To be clear, continuation of these emergency declarations until May 11 does not impose any restriction at all on individual conduct with regard to COVID-19,” the administration wrote. “They do not impose mask mandates or vaccine mandates. They do not restrict school or business operations. They do not require the use of any medicines or tests in response to cases of COVID-19.”
The impact of the public health emergency ending will come into clearer focus over the next three months, as different agencies in the federal government determine which related programs can be continued without the order in place — and how to unwind programs that can’t.
One potential impact will be on hospitals and doctors’ offices, which have come to rely on higher rates for Medicare patients and more flexibility around bed capacity rules when there’s a surge of patients.
States will also soon be exempt from sharing data with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has mandated information like case counts and COVID-19 deaths during the public health emergency — a change that could lead to a cloudier future picture of COVID-19 in the U.S.
A senior administration official told ABC News that the CDC will reach out to states in the coming months to encourage them to continue sharing that information voluntarily.
The public health emergency also affects the health care coverage Americans have come to rely on for free COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests. While vaccines will remain largely free for people with insurance even after the emergency ends — so long as they’re administered by an in-network provider — free treatment and tests could be less of a guarantee.
A senior administration official predicted the change will be relatively minor, and that instead the larger change in COVID-19 coverage will come later this year, when the government stops buying and distributing vaccines, tests and treatments for free for all Americans and insurance companies begin to take up the cost, moving the whole system to the private market.
People on Medicaid may also face changes in their health care coverage after April 1, when states will once again be able to remove enrollees who no longer qualify for the program.
States have so far been barred from ending people’s Medicaid coverage for the duration of the pandemic, even if enrollees’ circumstances change and they no longer qualify, as a tenet of the public health emergency. According to a group of Republican governors, who in December pressured the Biden administration to end the public health emergency, the Medicaid expansion has led to an increase of approximately 20 million people on the program’s rolls since the start of the pandemic.
At least 13% of Medicaid recipients could get removed from their coverage once the rules change, according to research compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) from around 20 states.
The end of the public health emergency could also bring the end of Title 42 — the order that has allowed the Trump and Biden administrations to turn many migrants away at the border by citing the potential spread of the virus.
The Biden administration supports “an orderly, predictable wind-down of Title 42, with sufficient time to put alternative policies in place,” the government said in Monday’s announcement.
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