Biden Administration Announces End of COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

Last week, the Biden administration announced that it will end the COVID-19 national and public health emergencies (PHE) effective May 11, 2023. As noted in the Administration statement at present, the administration's plan is to extend the emergency declarations to May 11, and then end both emergencies on that date. This wind-down would align with the administration's previous commitments to give at least 60 days' notice prior to termination of the PHE."

Over the last three years, the PHE declaration has granted the Trump and the Biden Administrations significant executive powers to temporarily suspend regulatory requirements, implement new programs and allocate federal resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The administrative powers under the PHE declaration have allowed the swift implementation of telemedicine services, expedited approvals of COVID-19 vaccines and medications, enabled the development and distribution of free COVID-19 vaccines and testing kits and allowed emergency expansion of Medicaid insurance coverage. 

Medicaid announced a series of guidelines (Creating a Roadmap for the End of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency | CMS and Coronavirus Waivers | CMS) last year on how to return to pre-pandemic norms, stating that Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program agencies will be allowed to begin their “unwinding” period either one month before the PHE ends, the same month that it ends or the month after it ends.

In anticipation of the ending of the public health emergency, Congress extended telehealth benefits through 2024 and allowed Medicare to cover oral antiviral drugs even if they are under an emergency use authorization through the end of 2024. 

COVID-19 tests and vaccines were covered for most Americans at no cost during the PHE, but the federal government has planned to shift much of these costs to the commercial market in 2023. Once the PHE ends, Medicare enrollees will generally face out-of-pocket costs for at-home tests and treatments, but vaccines would largely remain free for those with Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurance. Medicaid programs will still cover physician-ordered tests, but treatments will incur a fee — commercially insured individuals can receive free treatments until federal supplies run out. Commercialization would also leave the over 26 million uninsured individuals in the U.S. with a major disadvantage in accessing free vaccines and treatments.

With the PHEs’ pending termination, states will no longer be required to report COVID-19 data to the CDC.
Last Reviewed: February 2023