On Monday, President Biden informed Congress that the national emergencies in response to the coronavirus pandemic would be terminated on May 11th, thereby altering the federal government’s approach to the outbreak, which originated in the U.S. over three years ago. Biden’s declaration was in response to House Republicans’ attempts to immediately terminate the emergency declarations, which the White House warned would lead to chaos and impede a smooth transition from the emergency status.
President Biden notified Congress that he plans to end the national and public health emergencies declared for COVID-19 on May 11th. Biden has been renewing both emergencies every 90 days and had previously committed to giving states a 60-day notice before terminating them.#COVID pic.twitter.com/fyASTb3EG4
— News Live (@NewsLiveFree) January 31, 2023
With the termination of the orders, a new stage in the pandemic response is being initiated, as U.S. officials plan to eliminate some of the measures put in place during the earliest and most critical phase. Despite this, life has largely returned to normal as most Americans have been fully vaccinated against the virus. However, the virus still claims over 500 American lives daily.
The Trump government declared a national and public health emergency in 2020 with expiration dates of March 1st and April 11th, respectively. The White House informed Congress on Monday of its intention to briefly extend both emergencies before ending them on May 11th. The public health emergency has been regularly renewed every 90 days since its initial declaration, with administration officials previously stating that a 60-day notice would be given before ending it.
Termination of National & Public Health Emergencies Declared by the Trump Administration
In 2020, the Trump administration declared a national and public health emergency, with expiration dates of March 1st and April 11th, respectively. The White House informed Congress on Monday of its intention to briefly extend both emergencies before ending them on May 11th. The public health emergency has been regularly renewed every 90 days since its initial declaration, with administration officials previously stating that a 60-day notice would be given prior to ending it.
The White House stated on Monday that terminating emergency declarations would result in widespread disruption and unpredictability throughout the healthcare sector, affecting states, healthcare providers and facilities, and primarily, a huge number of U.S. citizens. The White House highlighted the termination of Title 42, a public health measure that controls migration at the border, as one of the major consequences of ending the state of emergency.
Despite efforts by the Biden administration to end Title 42, it has been hindered by legal challenges. An official from the administration stated that once the coronavirus is no longer a public health threat, the CDC has determined that the measure is no longer necessary as it was enacted under the authority of a public health order.
On Monday, some House Republicans criticized the White House’s statement, claiming that Title 42 is not linked to the public health emergency and is entirely up to the President’s discretion. A House Energy and Commerce Committee representative stated that ending Title 42 is not related to the public health emergency and that President Biden alone would be accountable for the decision to end it. Despite this, many Republicans support maintaining the Title 42 restrictions due to health concerns.
Impact of Abrupt End to Emergency Declaration on Medicaid
The emergency declaration facilitated the Medicaid program to offer additional funding so that many beneficiaries could continue receiving their Medicaid payments during the pandemic. Although Congress has put an end to this effort, the White House argued that ending it suddenly would result in chaos and difficulties for the recipients. According to the White House, the sudden termination of this effort could lead to tens of millions of American nationals losing their health insurance and states losing billions of dollars in funding due to the uncertainty.
According to White House officials, one of the most significant consequences of ending the emergency declaration would be the discontinuation of Title 42, a public health measure that restricts the entry of migrants at the border. The Biden administration has tried to end Title 42, but the court has obstructed the attempt. An official from the administration stated that Title 42 being a public health order, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided that it wouldn’t be necessary once the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer public. The U.S. Congress has extended telehealth benefits until 2024.
They have also ensured that Medicare will cover the oral antiviral drug Paxlovid, used for COVID-19 treatment, even if it is under emergency use authorization until the end of 2024. Extending the emergency status will give healthcare providers more time to prepare for the changes that will occur when the emergency orders expire. The extra time will also help healthcare systems adjust to the changes. The emergency status provided more flexibility in areas such as hospital bed capacity and billing procedures, which will need to be altered as the emergency status ends.
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