July 11, 2022 - 1:40 pm
WASHINGTON — The U.S. government will once again extend the COVID-19 public health emergency, continuing measures that have given millions of Americans special access to health insurance and telehealth services.
The Department of Health and Human Services has repeatedly renewed the emergency since it was originally declared in January 2020, with the most recent extension set to expire July 15. The next extension is expected to take effect Friday, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the details aren’t public.
HHS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Biden administration has said it will give states 60 days’ notice before ending the emergency to allow sufficient time to prepare for changes to certain programs and regulatory authorities. HHS last extended the public health emergency in May.
The emergency designation has given millions of Americans special access to Medicaid, the state and federal program that provides health coverage to low-income populations. U.S. regulators have also used emergency powers to clear vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for use against the coronavirus. Should the designation expire, people may no longer be able to access tools necessary to defend against COVID-19 infection and disease.
The designation has also allowed for flexibilities around virtual health services. Lawmakers have pledged to extend increased telehealth access until five months after the end of the public health emergency is declared. An abrupt end to the emergency declaration could affect companies that provide those services.
The declaration has also unlocked special funds that can be deployed to help the pandemic response. Bloomberg reported last week that such funds have become increasingly scarce.
On Sunday, President Joe Biden said he’d asked his staff to consider whether the administration had the authority a separate public health emergency related to restrictions on abortion and reproductive health services.