Compliance News | January 31, 2023

U.S. COVID-19 Emergency Declarations Will End on May 11

On January 30, 2023, the Biden administration announced that it would end the public health emergency and the national emergency related to COVID-19 on May 11, 2023.

The end of both emergency declarations has implications for sponsors of group health plans, which we address below.

Stressed Tired Healthcare Worker Sitting On Floor

The timing of the announcement is a response to activity in the House of Representatives — a bill and a joint resolution — that would have ended the emergency declarations sooner than May 11. The administration notes, “an abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system.”

The public health emergency and the national emergency

Since January 31, 2020, when the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared the public health emergency (retroactive to January 27, 2020), the federal government has extended it 12 times. The most recent extension took effect on January 11, 2023 for at least an additional 90 days (i.e., April 11, 2023). The January 30 announcement noted that the public health emergency will be extended until May 11.

HHS had indicated it would give at least a 60-day notice before the expiration of the public health emergency.

President Trump declared the national emergency on March 13, 2020 (retroactive to March 1, 2020). On February 18, 2022, President Biden extended the national emergency until March 1, 2023.

The end of both declarations was announced in a policy statement.

Implications for group health plan sponsors

This public health emergency declaration determines the period during which group health plans and insurers must pay for COVID-19 tests (including certain over-the-counter tests) and related services without charging cost sharing. In addition, during this period non-grandfathered group health plans and insurers must cover COVID-19 vaccines without cost-sharing both in and out of network. To learn more, see our December 15, 2020 insight, “Most Plans Must Cover COVID-19 Vaccine Without Cost Sharing.” Once the public health emergency expires, non-grandfathered plans may limit COVID-19 vaccine coverage to in-network providers.

Other plan requirements, most notably the requirement to extend certain deadlines related to COBRA, special enrollment, and claims and appeals, are governed by the national emergency.

Action item

In preparation for the end of the public health emergency and the national emergency, plan sponsors should review plan coverage for COVID-19 and related costs and determine how to address these costs once the requirement to pay for them ends.

Have questions about how the end of the emergency declarations will affect your health plan?

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This page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax or investment advice. You are encouraged to discuss the issues raised here with your legal, tax and other advisors before determining how the issues apply to your specific situations.