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Public Health Emergency Clock Ticks Forward to July

As expected, the Biden administration extended the mid-April expiration of the Public Health Emergency (PHE) another 90 days, so the countdown again restarts for July 15. The stakes are high for many parties, even as many Americans are shedding their masks and moving on.

For some states, the pandemic influx of Medicaid members was the largest enrollment action they witnessed in the 50-year history of Medicaid. Industry experts and states are keeping a close eye on what happens next.

When the PHE expires, so does continuous coverage for Medicaid enrollees. Many will become ineligible or need to proactively re-enroll to stay covered. Some estimate as many as 15 million Americans could lose coverage or need a transition in coverage, such as to an Exchange plan.

The Biden administration has promised 60 days’ notice to state Medicaid programs before ending the PHE, so the administration could signal its intent in mid-May if July is the targeted end-date. Many states say they don’t have the time or resources to effectively discern eligibility, contact and re-enroll beneficiaries even at that. Some experts think Medicaid continuous coverage could be de-linked from the expiration of the PHE to accommodate these concerns.

Other impacts PHE expiration:

  • Most beneficiaries in traditional Medicare will lose significant telehealth access unless they are in rural areas or participate in Medicare Advantage.
  • Providers will lose substantial financial support. Major provider associations are pleading for more time. Providers say they face challenges in providing care postponed during the pandemic, and have supply chain disruptions and staffing problems.
  • Popular telehealth flexibilities will continue at least five months beyond the end of the PHE, thanks to 2022 Congressional legislation.

There is mounting political pressure to end the PHE. Various emergency measures, such as those affecting skilled nursing facilities, are already winding down. Many policy experts expect the April renewal to be the last extension. If the PHE is extended yet again, the new date to watch will fall in mid-October.