Oroville Mercury-Register

How will life change once the COVID-19 emergency ends?

- By Amanda Seitz

The declaratio­n of a COVID-19 public health emergency three years ago changed the lives of millions of Americans by offering increased health care coverage, beefed-up food assistance and universal access to coronaviru­s vaccines and tests.

Much of that is now coming to an end, with President Joe Biden’s administra­tion saying it plans to end the emergency declaratio­ns on May 11.

Here’s a look at what will stay and what will go once the emergency order is lifted:

COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines

The at-home nasal swabs, COVID-19 vaccines as well as their accompanyi­ng boosters, treatments and other products that scientists have developed over the last three years will still be authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administra­tion once the public health emergency is over.

But how much people pay for certain COVID-related products may change.

Insurers will no longer be required to cover the cost of free at-home COVID-19 tests.

Free vaccines, however, won’t come to an end with the public health emergency.

“There’s no one right now who cannot get a free vaccine or booster,” said Cynthia Cox, vice president at Kaiser Family Foundation. “Right now all the vaccines that are being administer­ed are still the ones purchased by the federal government.”

But the Biden administra­tion has said it is running out of money to buy up vaccines and Congress has not budged on the president’s requests for more funding.

Many states expect they can make it through the spring and summer, but there are questions around what their vaccine supply will look like going into the fall — when respirator­y illness typically start to spike, said Anne Zink, the president of the The Associatio­n of State and Territoria­l Health Officials.

“We’re all anxious to find out more about that,” Zink said.


Medicaid enrollment ballooned during the pandemic, in part because the federal government prohibited states from removing people from the program during the public health emergency once they had enrolled.

The program offers health care coverage to roughly 90 million children and adults — or 1 out of every 4 Americans.

Late last year, Congress told states they could start removing ineligible people in April. Millions of people are expected to lose their coverage, either because they now make too much money to qualify for Medicare or they’ve moved. Many are expected to be eligible for low-cost insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act’s private marketplac­e or their employer.

Student loans

Payments on federal student loans were halted in March 2020 under the Trump administra­tion and have been on hold since. The Biden administra­tion announced a plan to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loan debts for individual­s with incomes of less than $125,000 or households with incomes under $250,000.

But that forgivenes­s plan — which more than 26 million people have applied for — is on pause, thrown into legal limbo while awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court.

The Justice Department initially argued that the Secretary of Education has “sweeping authority” to waive rules relating to student financial aid during a national emergency, per the 2003 HEROES Act that was adopted during the wars in Afghanista­n and Iraq.

A Biden administra­tion official told The Associated Press Tuesday that ending the health emergencie­s will not change the legal argument for student loan debt cancellati­on, saying the COVID-19 pandemic affected millions of student borrowers who might have fallen behind on their loans during the emergency.

The pause on student loan payments is expected to end 60 days after the Supreme Court ruling.

Immigratio­n at the border

Border officials will still be able to deny people the right to seek asylum, a rule that was introduced in March 2020 as COVID-19 began its spread.

Those restrictio­ns remain in place at the U.S.Mexico border, pending a Supreme Court review, regardless of the COVID-19 emergency’s expiration. Republican lawmakers sued after the Biden administra­tion moved to end the restrictio­ns, known as Title 42, last year. The Supreme Court kept the restrictio­ns in place in December until it can weigh the arguments.

The end of the emergency may bolster the legal argument that the Title 42 restrictio­ns should no longer be in place. The emergency restrictio­ns fell under health regulation­s and have been criticized as a way to keep migrants from coming to the border, rather than to stop the spread of the virus.


COVID-19’s arrival rapidly accelerate­d the use of telehealth, with many providers and hospital systems shifting their delivery of care to a smartphone or computer format.

 ?? RICK BOWMER — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE ?? A nurse prepares for a COVID-19test outside the Salt Lake County Health Department in Salt Lake City on Dec. 20.
RICK BOWMER — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE A nurse prepares for a COVID-19test outside the Salt Lake County Health Department in Salt Lake City on Dec. 20.

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