The potential fallout of ending the COVID-19 emergency

February 3, 2023 – Ending the COVID-19 public health emergency, which the Biden administration plans to do in May 2023, could make it harder for some people—depending on their health insurance status—to access free vaccines and COVID-19 tests and treatments, according to experts.

The change could lead to inequities and even to future outbreaks, said Jose Figueroa, assistant professor of health policy and management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a February 1 article in The National Desk.

Regarding COVID testing, Figueroa said that different people may have to pay different amounts, depending on their insurance coverage. “It’s unclear what individual [health] plans will do but that’s a major, major change,” he said. “There’s concerns that there’s going to be a lot less testing happening out in the community.”

Access to free vaccines could also end for some, further quelling uptake, which has been steadily dropping over time. “If when they’re free, not everyone’s taking them, can you imagine if you have to now pay for it?” he said. “It’s going to be less and that will contribute to potentially future outbreaks.”

Figueroa was also quoted in the New York Times and in Time magazine about the potential impacts of ending the COVID emergency. In addition to the loss of free services, millions who became eligible for Medicaid under emergency declarations could lose that coverage in certain states. “The majority of them are expected to be Black and Latino people, so there are concerns that health inequities will worsen,” Figueroa said in Time. He added that loss of services could mean that the virus could have more opportunities to spread. “Will this change the trajectory of the pandemic?” he said. “It’s something we are going to have to watch.”

Read The National Desk article: End of national emergencies brings new challenges to US COVID response

Read the Time article: The U.S. COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Ends in May. Here’s What Will Change

Read the New York Times article: What the End of the Covid Public Health Emergency Could Mean for You

Photo: iStock/Daisy-Daisy