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COVID-19 national emergency ends via president's signature

Article

Public health emergency continues to May 11.

The COVID-19 national emergency is over.

On April 10, President Joe Biden signed the bill that terminated the national emergency related to the pandemic through the National Emergencies Act. The White House announced the president’s action without additional comment.

The president’s signature on the legislation does not end the public health emergency that is scheduled to run to May 11, according to a report by Politico.

More information coming

The president’s action did not include a new round of updates about various health care policies that have been affected by the pandemic and the government’s response.

For months there have been periodic announcements about the transition out of the national emergency and public health emergency. The most recent came April 11 when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Civil Rights announced the end of the Notifications of Enforcement Discretion relating to telehealth. Those notifications were issued under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act during the pandemic.

In February, HHS announced some aspects of health care will not change, but “certain Medicare and Medicaid waivers and broad flexibilities for health care providers are no longer necessary and will end.” HHS has published a “COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Transition Roadmap”.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services noted the end of the national emergency does not affect waivers authorized under the public health emergency.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has analyzed the effects of ending the COVID-19 emergency declarations, including changes to Medicaid continuous enrollment that ended March 31.

Changes to Medicaid were among six key points for primary care physicians to know as the PHE ends, according the American Academy of Family Physicians. Vaccines, telehealth flexibilities, and long COVID were on that list and the Academy said more information will be available in coming weeks.

Coming to an end

After the president signed the bill, Rep. Gregory F. Murphy, MD, (R-North Carolina), said the national emergency allowed Democrats to spend trillions of dollars and “incentivize unemployment by expanding Medicaid enrollment.”

“This is a major win for the American People. Medically speaking, the COVID Emergency has been over for months,” Murphy said in a statement. “Under the guise of COVID, President Biden and the Democrats were able to abuse emergency powers and go on a spending spree in order to prevent the American people from returning to normal. After bipartisan votes in both chambers voted to end this declaration, President Bided finally was forced to end this declaration. Medicine needs to be rooted in hard, objective science, not politics.”

In March, the Senate voted 48-47 to end the national state of emergency declared through the National Emergencies Act (NEA). Sen. Roger “Doc” Marshall, MD, (R-Kansas) sponsored the legislation and released a statement after that vote and after the president's signing.

“Finally, the COVID-19 emergency is over,” Marshall said. “I am proud to have led this resolution that takes the supersized powers away from President Biden and ends the White House’s authoritarian control and unilateral spending decisions without congressional consent. We’ve restored the balance of powers as our constitution outlines — emergency declarations were never supposed to be indefinite and used for political purposes. I’m grateful to have received bipartisan support from my colleagues in our efforts to do the right thing and terminate the COVID-19 National Emergency Declaration.”

The Senate vote followed House passage of the legislation on Feb. 1. Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS, (R-Arizona), a sponsor of the legislation, said the Biden administration used the national emergency to abuse federal authority, including proposed forgiveness of student loans.

“Our long national nightmare is over,” Gosar said in a statement.

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