Public health emergency due to COVID-19 ends May 11

On May 11, 2021, the United States is set to end the public health emergency declared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic more than three years ago. This shift in status will cause a number of changes and implications for the health care industry, insurance coverage, and access to treatments and vaccines.

In terms of health insurance coverage, those with private insurance will retain their coverage, however, the costs of treatments and coverage are likely to rise. Additionally, those on Medicaid will have their eligibility checked and may be unenrolled if they are no longer eligible. In Massachusetts, health insurers are still required to cover all medically necessary COVID-19 treatment without charging co-pays or deductibles.

The end of the emergency will also mean that the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency-use authorization for COVID-19 nasal swaps and saliva tests will remain in place, however, insurers will no longer be required to cover the cost of at-home tests. Vaccines will remain free for those with health insurance, and those without insurance will have access to vaccines at an announced later date.

The end of the public health emergency is also likely to mean changes for Medicare patients, such as the requirement to spend at least three days in a hospital before being eligible for nursing home care and the potential rollback of enhanced payments for COVID-19 patients and the ability to use alternative spaces for treatment.

Though the emergency status is ending, the federal government is committed to ensuring that vaccines and treatments are accessible and not prohibitively expensive for uninsured Americans. White House Coordinator Ashish K. Jha noted that “we’re going to have 50 different experiments in 50 different states”. It is clear that the end of the public health emergency does not mark the end of the virus, and the United States must remain cautious and committed to fighting the pandemic.


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