On March 13, 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national public health emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the United States has remained under a state of emergency declaration. Recently though, President Joe Biden announced that he plans to end the public health emergency on May 11, 2023.
Under the federal public health emergency, the United States government could invest vast resources to help protect people from COVID-19. The country is now at a point where it is time to transition away from the emergency phase. With this transition, there will be changes in COVID-19 vaccination accessibility, COVID-19 testing, and other programs and services. Although the United States is at a point where COVID-19 may no longer be an emergency, the virus remains present across the country and still poses a health risk to many people. As a note, this blog post is being written in early March of 2023; some of the circumstances listed below may change.
Under the public health emergency, COVID-19 vaccinations were completely free to everyone; however, this could change in the coming months. In the future, COVID-19 vaccines will primarily be available through healthcare providers. People may need to pay out-of-pocket expenses for vaccinations, depending on their health care coverage, similar to costs that one may experience when receiving other vaccinations. Most individuals with private health insurance will have COVID-19 vaccinations covered. Medicaid will continue to cover COVID-19 vaccinations without a co-pay or cost sharing through September 30, 2024, and will cover the vaccines for most beneficiaries after that date.
Access to COVID-19 testing in the United States will be changing. Under the public health emergency, private health insurance companies were required to cover both over-the-counter (OTC) and laboratory tests, this requirement will be ending, and private insurance will no longer have to cover these testing options. Some private insurance companies may continue to cover COVID-19 testing, but others may not. State Medicaid programs must continue to provide coverage without cost sharing for COVID-19 testing until September 30, 2024; after this date, coverage will vary from state to state. Medicare beneficiaries who are enrolled in Part B will continue to have coverage without cost sharing for laboratory COVID-19 tests when ordered by a doctor, but access to free over-the-counter COVID-19 tests will end.
Similarly to COVID-19 vaccines and COVID-19 testing, out-of-pocket expenses for certain COVID-19 treatments (such as Paxlovid and Lagevrio) may change, depending on an individual’s health care coverage. Medicaid programs will continue to cover COVID-19 treatments without cost-sharing through September 30, 2024. After that date, coverage and cost sharing may vary by state.
Medicaid & BadgerCare Coverage
During the public health emergency, temporary rules were put in place to protect the health and safety of people in the United States; this included Medicaid waivers that expanded access to Medicaid. Normally, government agencies ask Medicaid members to provide updated information about themselves once a year and renew their participation in Medicaid if they still qualify. Currently, the federal government requires states not to remove people from their Medicaid programs unless they die, move out of state, or request to leave. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has not been asking for this information during the public health emergency. At this time, there is not yet a specific date for when things will change, but the Wisconsin Department of Health Services will resume the regular renewal process that was in place before COVID-19 and will reach out to members regarding this change. Until the temporary rules end, member access to BadgerCare Plus and Medicaid benefits will continue.
Green County Public Health will continue to keep community members up-to-date regarding changes associated with the ending of the public health emergency. People who want to learn more about what this transition means can visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. To learn more about upcoming changes in BadgerCare and Wisconsin Medicaid, visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.