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February 2023: COVID-19 Emergency Declarations to End in May

15 Feb

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Update Applicable to:
All employers.

What happened?
On January 30, 2023, the Biden Administration announced that it would end COVID-19 emergency declarations on May 11, 2023.

What are the details?
The federal government has been paying for COVID-19 vaccines, some tests, and certain treatments under the public health emergency declaration. Those costs will now be transferred to private insurance and government health plans. For example, people with private insurance or Medicare coverage have been eligible for eight free over-the-counter COVID-19 tests per month. Once the emergency ends on May 11, 2023, those individuals may end up paying out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 tests in the future. Further, Pfizer and Moderna have already announced that the commercial prices of their COVID-19 vaccines will likely be between $82 and $140 per dose. However, the Affordable Care Act will require most plans to continue providing vaccines at no cost to participants. 

The end of the national emergency declaration will bring other changes affecting group health plans, including the termination of certain deadline extensions. During the national emergency, plan participants have had as much as one year longer to elect and pay for COBRA coverage, enroll for coverage as a result of a special enrollment event, and submit health plan claims and appeals. We will describe these deadline extensions and other health plan changes more thoroughly in an upcoming alert.

Increases in Medicare payment rates for hospital inpatient services related to COVID-19 will expire along with the public health emergency period. The federal government will also phase out enhanced Medicaid funding and will no longer condition certain federal matching funds on states’ continuous coverage of Medicaid beneficiaries and maintenance of pre-COVID premium levels and eligibility standards. As a result, many states will likely discontinue Medicaid coverage for millions of beneficiaries. A host of state-specific Medicaid (and CHIP) initiatives approved by the federal government via waiver authority will also expire at the end of, or just after, the public health emergency. These include waivers related to application processes, eligibility criteria, deductibles, other cost-sharing, enrollment fees and premiums, drug coverage, provider qualifications (including authority for out-of-state providers to provide various services), and other benefits. 

Through at least 2024, the Medicare program will continue its coverage of expanded telehealth: services (such as mental health and audio-only), eligible practitioners (such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists), geographic areas, and originating sites. States retain the flexibility to expand Medicaid coverage for similar telehealth services. 

For more information, please see the links below:

Article 1Article 2

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and let their employees know of this upcoming change so that they are aware of exposure or plan on getting a vaccination.

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This communication is intended solely for the purpose of conveying information. The present post might incorporate hyperlinks directing readers to websites managed by third-party entities. The inclusion of any links within this communication is meant to serve as points of reference and could encompass opinion articles from various law firms, articles from HR associations, official websites, news releases, and documents of government agencies, and other relevant third-party sources. Vensure has no authority over these external websites and bears no responsibility for their content. Furthermore, Vensure does not endorse the materials present on these websites. The contents of this communication should not be interpreted as legal advice or as a legal standpoint concerning specific facts or scenarios. Nor should it be deemed an exhaustive compilation of facts potentially pertinent to federal, state, or local laws. It is strongly advised that employers solicit legal guidance from an employment attorney when undertaking actions in response to any legal updates provided. This is due to the possibility of future alterations occurring in federal, state, and local laws, regulations, as well as the directives and guidelines issued by governing agencies. These changes may transpire at any given time, potentially rendering certain portions of the content within this update void or inaccurate.

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