Here are 3 things the end of the COVID public health emergency could undo
The Biden administration announced on Monday that it plans to end on May 11 a pair of emergency designations implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under both the national emergency and the public health emergency, both the Trump and Biden administrations implemented and extended programs that aimed to provide relief when it came to paying for health care, COVID-19 tests and treatments and making monthly student loan payments.
It also included a controversial border program that made it easier to expel foreign nationals, citing public health protections amid the pandemic.
The futures of some of those programs are now tied up in court battles.
The Biden administration announcement came on the eve of a planned vote on a bill backed by House Republicans dubbed the Pandemic is Over Act that would end the public health emergency on the same day the bill — which would still need a Senate vote and President Biden’s signature — is enacted.
Here are three things that could be undone with the lifting of the national and public health emergencies.
Title 42 was a policy implemented by the Trump administration that allowed Border Patrol officials to expel foreign nationals at the border, citing public health protections related to the pandemic. The policy, which disregarded and ultimately gutted the asylum system, has resulted in nearly 2.5 million encounters since its implementation in 2020, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.
The Biden administration since taking over in January 2021 had continued to implement the policy until the matter became tied up legally. The case made its way up to the Supreme Court that in December reversed an order from a federal judge who ruled the border policy must end.
A date has been set for oral arguments in March, with a final decision expected in June — a month after the planned May 11 lift of the public health emergency.
In a statement Monday, the Office of Management and Budget said the Biden administration “supports an orderly, predictable wind-down of Title 42, with sufficient time to put alternative policies in place.”
The Department of Homeland Security has previously indicated it is preparing to terminate Title 42 once the public health emergency ends.
Medicare and Medicaid beneficiary benefits
Since the public health emergency (PHE) declaration, government programs such as Medicaid were able to operate under special conditions, allowing beneficiaries to retain their coverage during the pandemic.
Medicaid announced a series of guidelines 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.
Under the public health emergency, beneficiaries enrolled in traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage could also receive free at-home COVID-19 testing and treatments and pay no cost-sharing. It also required private insurance companies to cover the costs of COVID-19 testing.
With the end of the public health emergency, Americans will need to start paying for COVID-19 tests and treatments such as Paxlovid, with insurance companies and manufacturers setting the price.
Federal student loan payment pause
Student loan payments on debt serviced by the U.S. Department of Education have been on pause since March 2020, with such loans also collecting no interest for nearly three years.
But the lifting of the national emergency, which was used as the basis for allowing payments to be paused, could further complicate another Trump-era matter that is now tied up in the legal system.
The pause, which has been extended under both the Trump and Biden administrations six times, is now tied to a student debt forgiveness program that the Biden administration is arguing at the Supreme Court level.
The Department of Education said previously that until it can implement the debt relief program, student loan payments would be paused until “no later than” June 30, which has left borrowers feeling in limbo.
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