Editor's note: U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra renewed the public health emergency declaration related to COVID-19 on Jan. 11, 2023. It will remain in place at least through mid-April.
After continued advocacy by the Texas Medical Association, American Medical Association, and other organizations, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seems likely to extend the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) for an 11th time.
A Biden administration official attributed the extension to the possibility of a surge in COVID-19 cases this winter as well as to the need for more time to transition out of the PHE, as Reuters reported Nov. 11.
The PHE is scheduled to expire in mid-January. However, HHS has said it will give states 60 days’ notice of the end of the PHE, and this deadline came and went on Nov. 11 with no such announcement. HHS previously has extended the PHE in 90-day increments.
The continuation of the PHE, which began in March 2020, would be good news for millions of Texans – predominantly postpartum women and children – who have benefited from continuous Medicaid coverage as a result of the federal disaster declaration. These patients remain at risk of losing their coverage when the PHE does end, and TMA has raised concerns about the state’s plan to verify patients’ eligibility.
There are other consequences associated with the end of the PHE.
Medicare has offered certain pandemic-era telehealth waivers and flexibilities – including paying the same rate for telehealth visits as in-person visits and allowing patients to access such services from their homes and via audio-only technology – that could end up on the chopping block.
The PHE also has played a key role in important aspects of battling the pandemic, including:
- Emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for vaccines and medical devices;
- Funding for medical and public health institutions; and
- Coverage of COVID-19 vaccines, certain testing, and some treatments.
When it expires, patients with private insurance could find themselves responsible for copayments and other cost-sharing related to COVID-19 healthcare for the first time, among other impacts.
Last Updated On
July 17, 2023
Originally Published On
November 14, 2022