This week, House Republicans introduced a new bill aimed at officially ending the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE). The “Pandemic is Over Act” was introduced by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) on January 17 and is sponsored by more than a dozen other House Republicans. The PHE was first declared by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in early 2020 and has been renewed multiple times since, with the most recent renewal announced last week. The Republican-controlled House is expected to take a symbolic vote on the bill, but it is likely that President Biden will veto the legislative effort to end the PHE. While it has been reported that the most recent renewal of the PHE could be the last, the Biden Administration has not ruled out further short-term extensions as needed.
According to a new report from HHS, the number of people in the U.S. without health insurance declined during the Covid-19 pandemic. The uninsured rate in the U.S. for people under age 65 dropped from 11% in 2019 to 10.5% in 2021 and by the first quarter of 2022, the uninsured rate dropped to an all-time low of 8%. Despite an estimated 1.6 million to 3.3 million people losing health coverage through their employer due to unemployment in 2020, the PHE declaration created temporary policies that allowed people who lost private coverage to easily find affordable health insurance. The PHE also barred states from removing people from Medicaid, growing enrollment in the program by more than 20 million from February 2020 through September 2022. However, with these pandemic-era protections coming to an end, an estimated 15 million people are at risk of losing their Medicaid coverage.