On January 30, 2023, the Biden Administration announced that the COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency declarations would come to an end on May 11, 2023. This would formally restructure the federal coronavirus response to treat the virus as an endemic threat to public health that can be managed through agencies' normal authorities.
So, are we finally getting back to normal? COVID is by no means over, there are still plenty of cases daily, but it is on the downtrend and is no longer taking over our everyday lives. With COVID restrictions loosening across the world, many are ready just to accept it as part of everyday life and try to return to normal.
It's been a long road. These emergency declarations began in early 2020 and provided flexibility in a range of areas, from Medicare to Medicaid and many realms of employee benefits. During the past few years, millions of Americans received free COVID tests, treatments, and vaccines during the pandemic. Once the state of emergency ends, so will these benefits. In addition, during the past few years, Congress passed new legislation, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) which provided additional flexibilities due to the emergency declarations. So it's important to keep in mind that many of these provisions will also expire 60 days after the national emergency ends ("The Outbreak Period").
Here are some benefits that will end:
- Beneficiaries in traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage pay no cost sharing for COVID-19 at-home testing
- Medicaid & CHIP: COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and treatment services for uninsured individuals are covered
- Group and individual health insurance plans are required to cover COVID-19 tests and testing-related services without cost-sharing or prior authorization
- Disaster-Relief State Plan Amendments (SPAs) allow HHS to approve state requests to make temporary changes to address eligibility, enrollment, premiums, cost-sharing, benefits, payments, and other policies differing from their approved state plan during the COVID-19 emergency
- Extension of election and notice deadlines for COBRA and other group health plan provisions must now disregard "The Outbreak Period" (ends 60 days after end of national emergency), which includes:
- 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage
- Date for making COBRA premium payments
- Deadline for employers to provide individuals with notice of their COBRA continuation rights
- 30-day (or 60-day in some cases) Special Election Period (SEP) to request enrollment in a group health plan
- 12-month extension for run-out periods for Consumer Driven Health Plans like Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements
- Beginning April 1, states will be able to start processing Medicaid redeterminations and disenrolling residents who no longer qualify, which will cause millions to lose coverage
We will continue to keep you informed as we navigate through 2023. In the meantime, follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter for more. And as always, if you have any questions or are interested in how Medcom can help you and your team, please feel free to contact us.