Biden administration plans to end Covid public health emergency on May 11

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) before receiving a second COVID-19 booster vaccination in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington , USA, March 30, 2022.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

The Biden administration plans to end the Covid public health emergency this spring, which will mark a major turning point in the US response to the pandemic.

The White House, in a statement Monday, said it would end on May 11 the public health and national emergencies that the Trump administration first declared in 2020.

The statement released by the Office of Management and Budget expressed the White House’s strong opposition to House Republican legislation to immediately end emergency declarations.

Public health and national emergencies have allowed hospitals and nursing homes to respond more flexibly to spikes in patient volumes during Covid surges.

Enrollment in Medicaid also increased during the public health emergency, as Congress essentially prohibited states from opting out of people from the program.

A provision inserted into federal spending legislation passed in December allows states to begin opting out of Medicaid people again in April.

The Department of Health and Human Services has promised to give states 60 days notice before ending the public health emergency so that the health care system has time to prepare for a 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 repeat curves over the past three years. HHS just extended the public health emergency again earlier this month.

Covid has killed more than a million people in the United States since 2020. Deaths have dropped dramatically since the pandemic peak in winter 2021, but nearly 4,000 people still succumb to the virus each week.

The OMB said abruptly ending emergency declarations as provided for in Republican legislation would “create large-scale chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system.”

Ending reporting without giving hospitals time to adapt would result in “disruptions to care and delayed payments, and many facilities across the country will experience lost revenue,” according to the OMB statement.

It would also “sow confusion and chaos” in the process of removing Medicaid coverage protections, the OMB said.

Although emergency declarations remain in place, the federal response to the pandemic has already been scaled back as funding has dried up. Congress has for months failed to pass a White House request for $22.5 billion in additional funding for the Covid response.

The White House also plans to transfer Covid vaccines to the private market in the near future, although the exact timing is unclear. This means that the cost of vaccines would be covered by patient insurance policies rather than the federal government.

Both Moderna and Pfizer have said they could charge up to $130 per vaccine dose, which is four times what the federal government pays.

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