President Joe Biden intends to end the Covid-19 national and public health emergencies on May 11, the White House said Monday.
The White House, in a statement of administration policy announcing opposition to two Republican measures to end the emergencies, said the national emergency and public health emergency authorities declared in response to the pandemic would each be extended one final time to May 11.
“This wind down would align with the Administration’s previous commitments to give at least 60 days’ notice prior to termination of the (public health emergency),” the statement said.
The statement added, “To be clear, continuation of these emergency declarations until May 11 does not impose any restriction at all on individual conduct with regard to COVID-19. They do not impose mask mandates or vaccine mandates. They do not restrict school or business operations. They do not require the use of any medicines or tests in response to cases of COVID-19.”
The statement came in response to a pair of measures before the House that would end the public health emergency and the Covid-19 national emergency.
The administration argues that the bills are unnecessary because it intends to end the emergencies anyway. The White House also noted the passage of the measures ahead of May 11 would have unintended consequences, such as disrupting the administration’s plans for ending certain policies that are authorized by the emergencies.
The White House said it would extend the Covid-19 emergencies one final time in order to ensure an orderly wind-down of key authorities that states, health care providers and patients have relied on throughout the pandemic.
A White House official pointed to a successful vaccination campaign and reductions in Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths as a rationale for lifting the emergency declarations. The official said a final extension will allow for a smooth transition for health care providers and patients and noted that health care facilities have already begun preparing for that transition.
The administration is actively reviewing flexible policies that were authorized under the public health emergency to determine which can remain in place after it is lifted on May 11.
The public health emergency has enabled the government to provide many Americans with Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines at no charge, as well as offer enhanced social safety net benefits, to help the nation cope with the pandemic and minimize its impact.
For instance, it has allowed most Americans covered by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance plans to obtain Covid-19 tests and vaccines at no cost during the pandemic. Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries have also had certain therapeutic treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies, fully covered.
Once the public health emergency ends, many Americans will have to start paying for these items.
However, the federal government has been preparing to shift Covid-19 care to the commercial market since last year, in part because Congress has not authorized additional funding to purchase additional vaccines, treatments and tests.
The public health emergency has also meant additional funds for hospitals, which have been receiving a 20% increase in Medicare’s payment rate for treating Covid-19 patients.
But several of the most meaningful enhancements to public assistance programs are no longer tied to the public health emergency. Congress severed the connection in December as part of its fiscal year 2023 government funding package.
Most notably, states will now be able to start processing Medicaid redeterminations and disenrolling residents who no longer qualify, starting April 1.
As part of a Covid-19 relief package passed in March 2020, states were barred from kicking people off Medicaid during the public health emergency in exchange for additional federal matching funds. Medicaid enrollment has skyrocketed since then, and millions are expected to lose coverage once states began culling the rolls.
Also, food stamp recipients were receiving a boost in benefits during the public health emergency. That extra assistance will end as of March, though several states have already stopped providing it.
This story has been updated with additional details.