It’s been more than 3 years since the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) first declared a nationwide Public Health Emergency (PHE) due to COVID-19. Since then, periodic renewals of the PHE have increased the flexibility of healthcare delivery. The PHE is set to end on May 11, 2023. A separate National Emergency that was enacted due to COVID-19 ended on April 10. Of the two, the end of the PHE will be more consequential for day-to-day healthcare delivery.
This blog is a look back at some of the healthcare policy changes enacted due to the COVID PHE with the largest and most noticeable impacts on people living with lung cancer, and what to expect once the PHE ends.
Access to COVID-19 vaccines and antiviral treatments generally won’t change.
Although costs associated with new COVID-19 vaccines or boosters will shift to traditional health care coverage (i.e. insurance), many plans will continue to cover these as a preventative service, and therefore require no co-pay. Additionally, antivirals like Paxlovid and Lagevrio will continue to be available with a prescription.
Access to telehealth for Medicare recipients, which became vital for many people with lung cancer looking to limit their exposure to the virus and to easily communicate with healthcare providers outside of their local area, has been extended and is no longer tied to the end of the PHE. Instead, most Medicare telehealth flexibilities will remain in place until December 2024. Many state Medicaid plans have already been amended to permanently cover telehealth services, and many private insurance plans offer a baseline of telehealth coverage as well.
End of the Medicaid Continuous Coverage requirement - under the PHE, access to Medicaid was expanded. Enrollees didn’t have to recertify their eligibility and could not have their Medicaid coverage terminated. As of April 1, 2023, states have the ability to resume their review of each Medicaid recipient’s eligibility in a process called redetermination. This could result in gaps in coverage for patients who have changed addresses since the beginning of the pandemic without notifying their state Medicaid office, or who don’t submit the necessary paperwork for eligibility recertification.
LUNGevity continues to advocate for policies that eliminate barriers to lung cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment, including barriers posed by insurance coverage and costs. Everyone with a passion for these issues is invited to join the LUNGevity Action Network for updates and more ways to get involved!
Additionally, although the public health emergency is coming to an end from an administrative standpoint, the health risks associated with a COVID infection are still present, especially for cancer patients who may be immunocompromised. Individuals over age 65 or who are immunocompromised are now eligible to receive a second bivalent booster. The CDC recommends that people at high risk, members of their household, and visitors all wear a high-quality mask or respirator indoors.
LUNGevity will adhere to these recommendations at our upcoming HOPE Summit.