Getting Answers: COVID-19 public health emergency ending May 11

People across the state may see some changes to their medical bills or insurance coverage on May 11 because the COVID-19 public health emergency is ending.
Updated: May. 4, 2023 at 5:55 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - People across the state may see some changes to their medical bills or insurance coverage on May 11 because the COVID-19 public health emergency, both on the state and federal levels, is ending.

On January 31, 2020, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services declared a national public health emergency because of COVID-19, nearly a week after the first case of the novel coronavirus was detected in the states. Now, more than three years later, things look vastly different.

Since 2020, the country has seen more than a million COVID-19 deaths and more than 100 million positive cases. We’ve also seen millions of vaccines administered, new testing methods rolled out, and treatments developed. Now, that COVID-19 public health emergency, declared nearly three years ago, is set to end on May 11.

“I think it’s about the right time. Certainly, in the northeast, we’ve been in a very low risk for a long, long time,” said Baystate Health President and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack.

Massachusetts residents can expect to see some changes, especially when it comes to their insurance. The state enrolled many residents into Medicaid on an emergency basis during the pandemic, mostly for those who may have lost their job and lost their health insurance coverage, but that could end when the public health emergency ends.

“The state is coming back around and asking those individuals to provide documentation of their eligibility for Medicaid,” said Dr. Kate McIntosh, medical director at Health New England.

McIntosh said to watch for a blue envelope in the mail that will ask you to submit documentation to see if you qualify for Medicaid.

“Please open it, please read it, and please follow-up on it because we don’t want anyone to go without coverage. We want to make sure that everyone, that they are not surprised,” McIntosh explained.

If you no longer qualify, McIntosh said the state has a team in place to help find you affordable coverage. There’s also a concern regarding tests and vaccinations. COVID-19 tests will no longer be covered by the state. Instead, it will be like purchasing anything over the counter, like Advil or a pregnancy test. As for vaccines, people will have to access those just like they would a flu vaccine, which could also come with a cost. Both of these factors concern Keroack.

“…Really ought to not have copays or deductibles applied to it to really reduce the friction or reduce the barriers for patients to go ahead and get those kinds of treatments,” Keroack added.

Patients may also see changes in telehealth. During the pandemic, rules were relaxed where patients could be prescribed some medications virtually. However, that could end after May 11.

“Things like opioids are no longer going to be available through telehealth…There are some other categories of, as you say, drugs with serious side effects that are no longer going to be able to be prescribed by telehealth,” Keroack explained.

If you have any concerns for what your insurance may cover, be sure to contact your individual provider.