The COVID-19 public health emergency is set to expire on May 23, 2023. The Biden Administration rolled out the largest adult vaccination campaign in US history, with more than 270 million American adults receiving at least one vaccine. With vaccines developed for children and infants as well, cases are down 92 percent since the peak of the Omicron epidemic in 2022 and deaths have fallen by 80 percent.
While there’s relief that the pandemic appears to be controlled if not extinguished, there is also widespread worry at the cutbacks to emergency health coverage measures keeping many people afloat. President Biden’s State of the Union address, however, reiterated the administration’s support for mental health, telehealth, peer support, and veterans health services, as well as support for expanded substance abuse disorder treatment and harm reduction measures to combat the overdose epidemic.
Here are some of the key changes, as well as what remains the same:
- As long as the supply of federally purchased vaccines lasts, COVID-19 vaccines will remain free to everyone, regardless of insurance coverage.
- The cost of COVID-19 test kits is expected to increase for people with insurance. For people on Medicaid, home tests will be covered at no cost through September 2024.
- Expanded telehealth for Medicaid beneficiaries will remain the same for now, as will most Medicare telehealth flexibilities. For changes in some of the telehealth requirements, see this federal roadmap for the end to the public health emergency.
- In one of the hardest-hitting changes, millions of Americans on Medicaid are expected to lose their health coverage when continuous enrollment ends on March 31, 2023 and states begin cutting them off Medicaid. States can begin disenrolling people from Medicaid as early as April 1, 2023. Although some recipients can apply for other plans, there is likely to be a disruptive break in coverage for many. Some may not be eligible for any other health insurance program.
- Access to buprenorphine and expanded take-home methadone doses for opioid use disorder treatment will not be affected. However, other changes for substance abuse treatment programs are in store, so check out the federal roadmap for more details.
Find out more in the resources listed below:
- Fact Sheet: COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Transition Roadmap, US Health and Human Services, Feb. 9, 2023.
- Fact Sheet: In State of the Union, President Biden to Outline Vision to Advance Progress on Unity Agenda in Year Ahead. Briefing Room, The White House. Feb. 7, 2023.
- Here’s why Medicaid treatments and free COVID tests, treatments will soon change. USA Today. Feb. 9, 2023.
- As pandemic-era lapse, millions of Americans to lose Medicaid. Politifact/The Poynter Institute. Feb. 3, 2023.
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