WASHINGTON – The Biden administration is winding down the treatment of COVID-19 as an emergency, restructuring how the federal government will respond to the pandemic that is entering its fourth year.
The administration plans to end both the national emergency and public health emergency on May 11.
That announcement came in a message to Congress about measures House Republicans are considering this week to end those emergency declarations immediately.
The administration wants to wait until May to end the emergencies because Republicans’ “abrupt end” would create “wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system,” the White House said.
Tens of millions of Americans could be at risk of abruptly losing their health insurance and others could lose access to telehealth services. States could lose billions of dollars in extra funding they’ve been receiving, Hospitals and nursing homes that have relied on flexibilities wouldn’t have time to retrain staff and establish new billing procedures, according to the White House.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., said there’s no need to wait until May because “the vast majority of Americans have returned to work and resumed their lives months ago.”
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COVID was on track to be the third leading cause of death in 2022 for the third year in a row, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health research organization.
But the public panic over the pandemic subsided after the introduction of vaccines and treatments.
In September, Biden said the pandemic was “over,” though he said COVID was still a problem.
A national emergency was first declared by President Donald Trump on March 13, 2020.
The Biden administration had said it would give states 60-day notice before ending the emergency.
States have been receiving extra Medicaid funding during the emergency in exchange for keeping patients continuously enrolled in the jointly funded health care program for low-income residents.
As a result, Medicaid enrollment increased 30% and fewer Americans have been uninsured.
In a massive spending bill passed in December, Democrats and Republicans agreed to allow states to kick people off Medicaid beginning in May.
When the public health emergency ends , people without insurance will have to pay for vaccines, tests and treatment on their own. Those with private insurance could have some out-of-pocket costs.
COVID-19 vaccines are also expected to become more expensive as the government stops buying them.
About seven in ten Americans have received an initial COVID vaccination but less than 20% of adults have received the latest booster, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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