In a statement from the Office of Management and Budget, the Biden Administration announced that it will end the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) on May 11. The statement is in response to proposed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that sought an earlier end date to the PHE. That bill, known as the “Pandemic is Over Act,” was introduced by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) on January 17 and was sponsored by more than a dozen other House Republicans. The Biden Administration has said it wanted to give at least a 60-day notice for states to begin preparing for the end of the PHE, as a sudden end to the emergency would have far-reaching consequences for the healthcare system. Once the emergency ends, it is expected that vaccine costs will increase, free at-home COVID tests will end, and hospitals will not get extra payments for treating COVID patients.
This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it will open a special enrollment period for those who have lost their Medicaid coverage due to the ending of the continuous coverage provision. According to guidance from HHS, people who lose their Medicaid coverage from March 31 through July 31, 2024, can apply for Affordable Care Act (ACA) healthcare plans outside of the normal open enrollment period if they live in a state served by the federal marketplace. While this applies to the 33 states that use the federal healthcare.gov platform, the 17 states that run their own marketplaces can implement a special enrollment period but are not required to do so. HHS has estimated that 15 million people will lose Medicaid coverage once pandemic-era protections end, and 8 million of that group will need to transition to other forms of coverage.