Biden set to extend federal COVID-19 emergency: What it means for Ohio

[MM Curator Summary]: Biden will likely extend the PHE again to give Dems cover for upcoming at-risk elections.


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President Joe Biden’s administration is set to extend the COVID-19 health emergency declaration beyond July 15, which is when it is currently set to expire.

The extension from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services means that hundreds of thousands of Ohioans at risk of losing health coverage and other benefits will continue to keep them for now.

Earlier in the year, many had anticipated that the pubic health emergency would no longer be extended as the nation settled down from the omicron wave and COVID-19 restrictions were loosened.

The likely extension, reported by Bloomberg, may not be the last 90-day extension and could continue, depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic and the political climate. Cases are significantly lower than they were this past winter, but are on the rise again.

Ending the public health emergency is more than just saying the U.S. has moved on from the COVID-19 pandemic. Its declaration allows for special provisions to help Ohioans affected by the virus and has very real-life consequences.

Ohio impact

With the extension, any vaccines or COVID-19 treatments under emergency use authorization can continue to be used. That currently includes vaccines for children between 5 and 15 years old. As of May 12, only 30% of Ohioans ages 19 and younger had been vaccinated, per state data.

The extension also continues to allow for health coverage flexibilities around COVID-19 tests, treatment and the use of telehealth. 

At least 400,000 Ohioans relying on Medicaid — government-paid health insurance for low-income or disabled people — could have lost coverage had the Public Health Emergency not been extended.

Instead, that process will play out later, and it’s one that can be very messy and difficult in determining who is not eligible and lose benefits. Mistakes could happen, where people who are still eligible (or still low-income) might accidentally be removed. 

That will pose headaches for the Ohio Department of Medicaid, which is trying to launch its revamped system on time. It recently pushed most of the launch back to avoid conflicting with the eligibility checks, but it now may need to readjust the timeline again.

The public health emergency prevented those on Medicaid from being disenrolled because Ohio saw a big boost in federal money to help cover them. The state received around $300 million every three months in federal money. That boost will go away when the declaration ends.

The declaration continuing also means temporary food stamp increases will remain in place at a time when inflation is affecting Ohioans. 

Titus Wu is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

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