WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Wednesday renewed the COVID-19 public health emergency, just ahead of its April 16 expiration date, providing an extension of pandemic policies and flexibilities for the health care industry.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra extended the emergency for 90 days, carrying it to mid-July. Becerra has previously pledged to give at least 60 days’ notice before ending the emergency, first declared in January 2020 during the Donald Trump administration.
The emergency has made it easier for 13 million to 16 million more Americans to access health insurance coverage under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, expands access to telehealth services, makes it easier to sign up for health insurance, and allows agencies to fast-track authorization for COVID-19 treatments, tests and vaccines at the Food and Drug Administration, among other flexibilities.
Republicans have called for the Biden administration to wind down the emergency as life returns to normal and the virus becomes more endemic.
“Americans, especially children, are in crisis. Instead of keeping us in a permanent state of emergency, it is time for this administration put people first and stop clinging to powers you currently enjoy under the PHE,” more than 70 House Republicans wrote in a February letter to President Joe Biden and Becerra, urging the administration to unwind thew emergency on April 15.
States are already preparing for the administration to wind down the emergency. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released guidance giving states 12 months to redetermine eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP. Congress extended telehealth coverage of Medicare for five months after the emergency ends in the fiscal 2022 omnibus spending bill.
In the meantime, lawmakers must decide how to proceed on telehealth waivers and states face unprecedented caseloads and limited budgets to redetermine Medicaid eligibility.