President Joe Biden announced Monday that he would end the emergency statuses governing the COVID-19 response May 11, a move that triggers health coverage changes long planned for by states.
The government’s decision to end emergency status is not related to the World Health Organization’s opinion this week that the pandemic remains but may be at a “transition point.” The president’s move amounts to a recognition that Americans are increasingly living with greater normalcy and COVID-19 can be managed through regular government authority.
Maine will be heavily affected by the end of rules that allowed people to stay on Medicaid for longer than they would be eligible in normal cases. Treatment may cost you and it may also be harder to find free COVID-19 tests. For those with health insurance, vaccines are covered.
Here is what Mainers need to know about the end of the public health and COVID-19 emergencies.
Many Mainers will lose Medicaid coverage, but most will stay covered.
The end of the public health emergency means that Medicaid is returning to normal, but it is not happening all at once.
During the pandemic, Congress allowed most people in the program to keep their coverage, even if they would have left it under regular circumstances. This led the rolls to skyrocket in Maine and across the country. Enrollment here rose by 33 percent between February 2020 and September 2022, according to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
States will have 12 months to determine who is still eligible for coverage. Maine has released its plan to do so, estimating it will be able to conduct reviews for 31,000 people each month. With 355,000 people on Medicaid as of October, that would take virtually the entire allotted year.
In Maine, 99,000 people — 70,000 adults and 29,000 children — could drop off the rolls, the Urban Institute found in December. But the vast majority will be covered by employer-sponsored plans or other public or private types. Roughly one-fifth of the 18 million Americans expected to leave the program are expected to be uninsured.
Treatments, tests and vaccines will carry costs for some.
Many Americans have gotten COVID-19 vaccines, tests and even treatments for free under the emergency statuses. After the emergency ends, you may notice some changes as the federal government shifts care to the insurance market, CNN reported on Tuesday.
Most Medicare recipients will face out-of-pocket costs for tests and treatment, though vaccines will be covered. State Medicaid programs will generally cover these things as well. Those with private insurance will get vaccines for free. For everyone else, vaccines remain free for the time being, but funding to replenish the federal supply could run out at some point.
Until a federal supply runs out, monoclonal antibody treatments for those at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 will remain free. But those with private insurance may face costs after that, with the status of that program not linked to the end of the emergencies.
Other effects could come on topics from hospital finances to immigration.
To help maintain health system capacity, hospitals have been reimbursed for treating COVID-19 patients on Medicaid at rates 20 percent higher than normal. That program and others affecting hospitals will end on May 11 at a time when hospitals are facing financial pressures.
Less certain is the effect on the controversial Title 42, a program allowing the Biden administration to quickly expel migrants at the southern border on health grounds without cases going to immigration court. The president has tried to end the program, but he has been blocked from doing so by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Some in Congress, including U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District, have tried to make it harder for Biden to end the program. While the court action keeps the program in effect for now, the end of the emergency may bolster the legal argument that restrictions should no longer be in place.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the day of Biden’s announcement. It was Monday.