The COVID-19 public health emergency will be extended into another year, as CNBC quoted a Biden administration official as saying Friday that the emergency will be extended through spring 2023.
The Health and Human Services Department previously extended the public health emergency until January. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra promised to give health-care providers 60 days notice before lifting the emergency declaration so they can prepare for a return to normal operations.
However, the deadline for giving that 60-day notice was Friday and no notice was sent out. In October. Becerra said that the decision on ending the public health emergency will depend on how well the nation fares with COVID-19 over the fall and winter.
The public health emergency has dramatically expanded public health insurance through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Enrollment in these programs increased 26% during the pandemic to a record of more than 89 million people as of June.
According to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, an estimated 5.3 million to 14.2 million could lose their Medicaid coverage when the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.
The public health emergency declaration gave the federal government the flexibility to waive or modify certain requirements in a number of areas, including Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and private health insurance. In addition, Congress enacted legislation – The Families First Coronavirus Response Act and The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act – that provided additional flexibilities tied to the public health emergency. Those flexibilities end when the public health emergency ends.
The flexibilities allowed under the declaration and legislation include:
Eliminating cost-sharing for receiving COVID-19 vaccines, testing, testing-related services and certain treatments.
Expanding eligibility for Medicaid. States are required to provide continuous eligibility for individuals enrolled in Medicaid on or after March 18, 2020. States are not permitted to transfer a Medicaid enrollee to another coverage group that provides a more restrictive benefit package.
Expanding access to telehealth for Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries.
Extending deadlines and notices for COBRA and other group health plan provisions. These include the date for making COBRA premium payments, the deadline for employers to provide individuals with notice of their COBRA continuation rights, and the 30-day special election period to request enrollment in a group health plan.