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What happens when COVID funding expires?



(QUEEN CITY NEWS) – The Biden administration plans to end its public health emergency funding on May 11, which means access to the free vaccines, treatments, and testing Americans have been afforded the past two years may change.

The availability of government-funded vaccines, tests, and treatments are determined by the supply and not by the expiration date of the health emergency.

Even when the free supply runs out, Mecklenburg County public health officials believe vaccines will remain the most accessible to everyone.

“Most insurances, because of the Affordable Care Act, are going to cover it. So, it’s really quite likely that folks are going to be able to access vaccines no matter what their insurance is going forward,” said Mecklenburg County Medical Director Bonnie Coyle.

Medicare and Medicaid will still provide free vaccines for at least a year after the public health emergency expires.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have said they plan to commercialize their vaccines and charge insurance providers and individuals between $110 – $130 per dose. That’s up to four times what they charged the federal government.

The good news for those that are uninsured or underinsured in Mecklenburg County is that the Public Health Department says they plan to include the COVID vaccine free of charge indefinitely as part of their vaccine program.

“The public health emergency is ending, but the commitment from public health to managing this COVID pandemic is still there,” said Coyle.

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Regarding testing, Medicaid must continue providing coverage for all testing, including at-home tests, for one year after the public health emergency expires. Coverage of at-home rapid tests for those with private insurance likely won’t continue.

Private insurers and Medicaid will cover physician-ordered PCR tests. Still, uninsured/underinsured people will either need to pay for their tests out of pocket or rely on the supply at their local free health clinics and public health departments.

“We don’t have the large, large supply that we used to, but we are still providing them for free,” said Coyle.

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Insurers will likely cover treatments like Paxlovid like any other prescription medication, but uninsured/underinsured people will likely need to pay for these drugs out of pocket once the federal supply runs out.

“The treatments that are available are generally prescription and provided by physicians, and so most insurances will cover those, but there may be an increase in the cost-sharing and copays,” said Coyle.

Another factor is that millions of Americans could lose their Medicaid coverage once states begin reverifying eligibility status.

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