Biden plans to end the public health emergency on May 11
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) before receiving a second COVID-19 booster vaccine in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, US, 30 March 2022.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
The Biden administration plans to end the Covid public health crisis this spring, as the US moves away from treating the pandemic as a national emergency and instead manages the virus more like a seasonal respiratory disease.
The White House, in a statement on Monday, said it would end on May 11 the public and national health emergency that the Trump administration first declared in 2020.
The statement released by the Office of Management and Budget highlighted the White House’s strong opposition to House Republican legislation aimed at ending emergency calls immediately.
Public health and national emergencies have allowed hospitals to react more flexibly when faced with spikes in patient numbers during the Covid surge.
Enrollment in Medicaid has also increased because Congress has essentially barred states from removing people from the program, citing a public health emergency.
A provision included in federal spending legislation passed in December allows states to begin withdrawing people from Medicaid in April.
The Department of Health and Human Services has promised to give states 60 days notice before ending the emergency so that the health care system has time to prepare to return to normal.
The public health emergency has been extended every 90 days since January 2020 as the virus has evolved into new variants and thrown several curve balls over the past three years. HHS just extended the emergency earlier this month.
The OMB said that an abrupt end to emergencies in the manner described in the Republican legislation would create “widespread chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system.”
Ending the certifications without giving hospitals time to adjust would lead to “care interruptions and payment delays, and many facilities across the country will experience a loss of revenue,” according to the OMB statement. .
It would also “cause confusion and chaos” in the process to end Medicaid coverage protections, OMB said.
Although the emergency declarations remain in place, the federal response to the pandemic has already been scaled back as funding has dried up. Congress has failed for months to respond to a request from the White House for $22.5 billion in additional funding for the Covid response.
The White House also plans to move the Covid vaccines to the private market soon, although the exact timing is unclear. This means that the cost of the vaccines would be covered by patients’ insurance policies rather than the federal government.
Moderna and Pfizer have both said they could pay up to $130 per vaccine dose, four times what the federal government pays.
Covid has killed more than 1 million people in the US since 2020. Deaths have dropped significantly since the peak of the pandemic in the winter of 2021, but nearly 4,000 people still succumb to the virus each week.