US to Conclude COVID Emergency and Transition to Managing it As a Seasonal Illness

COVID Vaccination

The Biden administration intends to conclude the Covid public health emergency this spring, transitioning from treating the pandemic as a national crisis to managing it more akin to a seasonal respiratory illness.

On Monday, the White House announced plans to terminate the public health and national emergencies declared by the Trump administration in 2020, effective May 11.

This move was in response to House Republican efforts to immediately end these emergency declarations, which the White House strongly opposed, as conveyed in a statement from the Office of Management and Budget.

These emergency declarations have allowed hospitals and healthcare providers flexibility in responding to surges in Covid patient volumes. They also contributed to a significant increase in Medicaid enrollment, as states were prohibited from removing individuals from the program during the emergency period.

A recent federal spending bill provision permits states to begin withdrawing people from Medicaid starting in April.

Despite the emergency declarations remaining in place until spring, federal Covid response efforts have already scaled back due to dwindling funding.

The administration’s request for an additional $22.5 billion in Covid response funding has languished in Congress for months.

COVID Vaccination

To ensure a smooth transition back to normalcy, the Health and Human Services Department has committed to providing states with a 60-day notice before ending the emergency declarations.

Since January 2020, the public health emergency has been extended every 90 days, reflecting the evolving nature of the virus and the emergence of new variants. HHS recently extended the emergency earlier this month.

The OMB cautioned against abruptly terminating the emergencies as proposed in Republican legislation, warning of potential chaos and uncertainty within the healthcare system.

According to the OMB statement, such action could disrupt care, delay payments, and result in revenue losses for many healthcare facilities.

Additionally, ending the emergency declarations without adequate preparation time would complicate the process of winding down Medicaid coverage protections, potentially leading to confusion.

Looking ahead, the White House plans to shift Covid vaccine distribution to the private market in the coming months, although specific timing remains unclear.

Under this arrangement, vaccine costs would be covered by patients’ insurance policies rather than by the federal government. Moderna and Pfizer have indicated they may charge up to $130 per dose of vaccine, four times the amount paid by the federal government.

Since 2020, Covid-19 has claimed over 1 million lives in the U.S. While deaths have significantly declined from their peak in winter 2021, approximately 4,000 individuals still succumb to the virus each week.

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Categorized as Health

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