What does it mean for tests, vaccines, treatments

Over the past three years, most Americans have had access to free COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines regardless of insurance status thanks to unprecedented funding from the federal government.

But that’s all about change as the Biden administration plans to end both the national emergency and the public health emergency on May 11.

Experts say access to COVID-19 services will now depend on insurance coverage through Medicaid, Medicare or private companies.

The end of the public health emergency could also jeopardize coverage for millions of Americans. The uninsured, who make up about 8 percent of the U.S. population, have few options for COVID care, said Jodie Guest, a professor and vice chair of the department of epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.

The Biden administration will shift healthcare costs associated with COVID-19 from the government to individual Americans, he said. “Our health and insurance system is pretty chaotic and very expensive, and we’ll be back.”

Based on your insurance coverage, here’s how the end of 911 public health services might affect you.

COVID tests

Ordering free home tests through COVIDtests.gov is likely to disappear with the end of the public health emergency, experts say.

  • medical help: Free trials until 2024

  • health care: They will no longer receive home tests for free

  • Private insurers: Varies by state and insurance company

Polymerase chain reaction tests, known as PCR tests, are considered “the gold standard” for detecting the COVID-19 virus, health experts say. But they can cost up to $100 if not covered, Guest said.

See above: Labs charge up to $14,000 for coronavirus tests. Insurers claim ‘price gouging.’

Vaccines against covid

With the end of the declaration of emergency, there may be new economic obstacles to vaccination.

Manufacturers Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have been selling their vaccines to the government for about $20 a dose, said Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, a professor of health policy management at the City University Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. New York.

But now, both companies said they are considering price hikes of between $110 and $130, Lee said.

  • Medical help: Free vaccines, no expiration date given

  • Medicare: Undetermined

  • Private insurers: Varies by state and insurance company

While private insurance companies may be inclined to cover vaccines similar to annual flu shots, Guest said nothing is guaranteed. Those without insurance coverage may have to pay the full cost.

What is the future of COVID boosters? FDA panel moves toward simplification of shots.

covid therapy

There aren’t many treatment options for COVID-19 after the FDA announced last month that the monoclonal antibody Evusheld is no longer licensed to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection in the U.S.

But the end of the public health emergency could limit access to the few available drugs, including Pfizer’s antiviral Paxlovid, health experts say.

  • medical help: Covered until 2024

  • health care: Covered until 2024

  • Private insurers: Varies by state and insurance company

Lee also fears a lack of emergency funding and a return to the slow approval process could demotivate companies from funding research into more COVID-19 treatments and better vaccines.

LAST: What to know about Paxlovid, the COVID antiviral keeping people out of hospital


Before 2020, most states had rules that limited access to telehealth services depending on where someone lived, Guest said. But COVID-19 and the public health emergency have blown that door open.

“The availability of telehealth was no longer limited geographically. There has been an expansion of access, particularly through Medicare and Medicaid,” he said. “There is some concern that many people will lose access to telehealth” now that the statement is ending.

Health experts fear this could disproportionately affect Americans living in rural areas and those with limited access to general health services.

  • medical help: States to decide

  • Medicare: Covered until 2024

  • Private insurers: Varies by state and insurance company

Medical coverage

Before the pandemic, Medicaid beneficiaries underwent an annual review to make sure they were still qualified, Guest said. The public health emergency put that review on hold and prevented states from taking people off Medicaid.

With the return of that review process, millions of Americans are at risk of not qualifying and losing their Medicaid coverage.

Moreover: As pandemic-era provisions expire, millions of Americans will lose Medicaid

Hospital funding

When the emergency declaration ends, it could mean hospitals won’t receive extra funding, health experts say.

“Hospitals have received a 20% increase in funding that they normally wouldn’t have if they discharged a live COVID case,” Guest said. “This will go away.”

Health experts fear that the lack of funds will lead to more hospital closures, particularly in rural areas, and leave health workers unprepared for future waves of the coronavirus.

Dig deeper

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

Coverage of patient health and safety at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial contributions.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID Emergency End Statement for Influencing Tests, Vaccines

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