HHS Extends Public Health Emergency Another 90 Days

HHS extended the public health emergency by an additional 90 days, setting a new expiration date of July 15. This impacts several areas, including the “Medicaid unwinding” that is widely anticipated to take place at the end of the public health emergency. In the announcement of the extension, HHS said it would give states 60 days’ notice prior to termination or expiration of the emergency.

Under the public health emergency, the federal government has been paying for tests, vaccines and certain treatments for those covered by its Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs. The government also required private insurers to cover the full cost of tests and vaccines for the duration of the public health emergency. This means that, once the emergency comes to a close, these benefits will no longer be available.

There is also a fund for those who are uninsured, but the fund will soon be depleted unless Congress allocates more. The Biden administration requested that Congress include $15 billion in COVID-19 relief provisions in the $1.5 trillion omnibus bill that was passed in March, but Congress could not reach an agreement and declined to include such provisions. According to a statement from the White House, these provisions would have maintained the nation’s testing capacity and financed the uninsured fund.

Another important aspect of the public health emergency is how it impacts Medicaid recipients. A federal mandate instituted toward the beginning of the public health crisis dictates that anyone enrolled in Medicaid cannot lose coverage during the pandemic. Prior to the public health crisis, states regularly evaluated whether residents still qualified for the safety-net program. The pandemic has suspended those routines for the past two years, leading to record-high enrollments across the country. While April 16 was the anticipated end to the public health emergency, this week’s extension means that any “unwinding” has been delayed until mid-July.

NAHU members play a crucial role in getting uninsured Americans covered, with 61 percent of ACA exchange enrollments this past OEP having been facilitated through an agent or broker. With millions of Americans on Medicaid potentially losing coverage starting in July, agents and brokers stand at the forefront to assist those that may now be eligible for a subsidy in the exchange. NAHU and the NAHU Education Foundation will be releasing resources to keep you informed and help you get folks covered.

The federal government also announced this week the extension of the nationwide face mask requirement for public transit for another 15 days from when it was scheduled to expire. Travelers will still need to mask up in airports, on planes, buses and trains and at transit hubs until May 3; this is likely to be extended again.