Two Biden administration officials announced on Friday that the United States would maintain the public health emergency designation of the COVID-19 epidemic, allowing millions of Americans to continue receiving free tests, vaccines, and treatments.
As per CTV News, one of the authorities stated that the potential for a winter increase in COVID-19 cases and the necessity for more time to transition from a public health emergency to a private market contributed to the decision not to discontinue the emergency designation in January.
The initial public health emergency declaration was made in January 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began, and has been repeated every three months since then for a period of 90 days. In August, though, the government signaled that it intended to let it expire in January.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) committed to provide states with 60 days’ notice before allowing the emergency to expire, which would have occurred on Friday if it had not been renewed in January. The agency did not send such a notification, according to the second official.
An official stated that health specialists anticipate an increase in COVID-19 infections in the United States this winter. He stated, “We may be in the midst of one in January.” “This is not the time to declare a public health emergency over.”
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, daily U.S. cases have decreased to an average of almost 41,300 as of November 9, yet an average of 335 individuals are still dying each day with COVID-19.
The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington projected on October 21 that daily U.S. cases would increase gradually to roughly 70,000 by February due to kids returning to school and indoor gatherings caused by cold weather. The death rate is expected to remain at its current level.
The officials stated that a substantial amount of work remained for the end of the public health emergency.
In accordance with the public health emergency (PHE) declaration, the government has paid for COVID-19 vaccines, some diagnostics, and treatments, as well as additional services. When the emergency ends, the government will begin transferring COVID-19 healthcare to commercial insurance and public health programs.
In August and October, health officials held extensive consultations with insurers and pharmaceutical companies to discuss shifting sales and distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations and treatments to the private sector, but no subsequent announcements have been made.
Dr. Jen Kates, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, stated, “From a policy standpoint, the greatest motive is assuring a smooth transition to the commercial market and the problem of unraveling the numerous protections that have been placed in place.” “Extending the PHE allows for additional time to manage that”
She stated that the largest obstacle is uninsured people. The majority of Americans have government-backed or private health insurance and are expected to incur no out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 vaccines and boosters; nevertheless, they will likely incur expenses for diagnostics and treatments.
Uninsured children will also continue to receive free vaccines, but it is unclear how they and the approximately 25 million uninsured adults would avoid paying the full price for testing and treatments, as well as how these adults will receive immunizations.
With the end of the emergency, their population is expected to increase. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) anticipates that as many as 15 million people will lose health coverage when the mandate that states maintain continuous participation in Medicaid programs ends and states return to normal enrollment patterns.