We are back at it, as the Biden Administration just announced that not only will the COVID Public Health Emergency (PHE) end, but the COVID National Emergency will also end. On the SAME DAY.
What’s the day? (Drum roll please…)
So there you have it. Both the PHE and the National Emergency will end in about four and a half months. While ending the National Emergency on May 11 is a pretty big deal for employer-sponsored plans (which I will discuss more fully below), interestingly, ending the PHE won’t be as big of a deal in certain cases.
Why Is the end of the PHE Not as Big of a Deal as It Once Was?
Well, in previous blog posts, we explained that millions of Medicaid beneficiaries will lose their Medicaid coverage once the PHE actually ends (this is because upon the end of the PHE, States MUST commence with eligibility redeterminations, which reports have shown will result in double-digit millions of beneficiaries losing their Medicaid coverage).
However, Congress recently stepped in and de-linked the Medicaid redetermination process from the official end of the PHE through the Omnibus legislative package that Democrats and Republicans passed back on December 16 of last year. This legislation now requires States to start their Medicaid redetermination processes as of April 1 (regardless of when the PHE may end). States will then have up to 12 months to complete all of the redeterminations for Medicaid beneficiaries living in their State.
Soooooo, the ongoing concerns over (1) the end of the PHE and (2) Medicaid redeterminations have been effectively addressed, which means the end of the PHE is not as big of a deal as it once was, at least as it relates to Medicaid beneficiaries and their health coverage.
Implications for the High-Deductible Health Plan Holder?
Another aspect of the end of the PHE that is no longer a concern (and generally wasn’t really a big deal before, so I didn’t report on it) is the ability of a High-Deductible Health Plan-holder to contribute to their Health Savings Account for the year, even if the HDHP-holder had tele-health coverage.
In short, back in 2020, Congress said that for as long as the PHE is in effect, an HDHP-holder that also has access to tele-health coverage can contribute to their HSA. Back in 2021, Congress extended this waiver to 151 days after the end of the PHE. In the year-end Omnibus legislative package, Congress de-linked this waiver from the PHE and proceeded to extend this waiver for another 2 years (through 2025). This 2-year waiver was welcome news for employer-sponsored plans.
Speaking of Employer-Sponsored Plans, Let’s Turn to the END of the National Emergency
In our last 2 blog posts, we explained that the COVID National Emergency is different from the COVID PHE. Importantly, the National Emergency does NOT run on a 90-day period like the PHE. Rather, the National Emergency runs on a 12-month period, which started back on March 1, 2022. This means that the National Emergency is scheduled to last through February 28, 2023, effectively ending March 1, 2023, unless President Biden chooses to extend the National Emergency to a future date.
Well, President Biden just decided to EXTEND the National Emergency to a future date – but, the extension is not for another 12 months. Rather (as noted above), the extension is to May 11 (about four and a half months from now).
This is important for employer-sponsored plans because the extended deadlines for HIPAA special enrollment requests and COBRA elections, premium payments and notice deliveries are tied to the end of the National Emergency. More specifically, the HIPAA and COBRA deadline extensions must end 60 days AFTER the end of the National Emergency (unless the employer-sponsor voluntarily extends these deadlines further, which is permissible).
Sooooo, because we now know that the National Emergency will end on May 11, circle July 13 on your calendar when we all TURN BACK to PRE-pandemic law (note, by my count, July 13 is 60 days from May 11, not counting Federal holidays, and I believe there are 3 Federal holidays between May 11 and July 13).