The COVID-19 public health emergency will be extended for another year, as CNBC quoted a Biden administration official as saying on Friday that the emergency would be extended until the spring of 2023.
The Department of Health and Human Services previously extended the public health emergency until January. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra has 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 this 60 day notice was Friday and no notice was sent. In October. Becerra said the decision to end the public health emergency will depend on how 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 high of more than 89 million people in June.
According to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, an estimated 5.3 to 14.2 million people could lose their Medicaid coverage when the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.
The public health emergency declaration gave the federal government the ability to waive or modify certain requirements in a number of areas, including Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and private health insurance. Additionally, Congress enacted laws – The Families First Coronavirus Response Act and The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act – that provided additional flexibilities related to the public health emergency. These flexibilities end when the public health emergency ends.
The flexibilities permitted under the declaration and the legislation include:
- Elimination of cost sharing for receipt of COVID-19 vaccines, tests, test-related services and some treatments.
- Expand Medicaid eligibility. States are required to provide continued eligibility for Medicaid enrollees beginning March 18, 2020. States are not permitted to transfer a Medicaid enrollee to another coverage group that offers a more restrictive benefit package.
- Expand access to telehealth for Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP beneficiaries.
- Extension of timelines and notices for COBRA and other group health plan provisions. These include the COBRA premium payment date, the deadline for employers to notify individuals of their COBRA continuation rights, and the special 30-day election period for applying for membership in a group health plan.