February 7, 2023
The End of the COVID-19 Emergency: What Employers Need to Know
The White House has announced it will end the COVID-19 national emergency declarations on May 11, 2023. Emergency declarations were designed to reduce red tape around COVID-19 prevention and care—so the end of the emergency may complicate the way employees access COVID-19 tests, boosters and treatments.
- Keep in mind: The emergency may soon be over, but COVID-19 continues to kill more than 400 people a day—about twice the number of daily deaths as a bad flu season.
WHAT WILL CHANGE
- Employers’ healthcare plans will no longer be required to cover the full cost of at-home COVID-19 tests (currently up to 8 tests per month).
- For many employees, changes in coverage could mean COVID-19 testing will only be covered if a doctor has ordered a test.
- Employers’ healthcare plans will no longer be required to cover the full cost of COVID-19 vaccines offered by out-of-network providers. At the moment, the federal government still has millions of booster and vaccine doses, and it has pledged to continue providing them for free while supplies last.
- Up to 18 million Americans will gradually lose health coverage from Medicaid, and about 4 million are likely to become completely uninsured, which may impact their uptake of vaccines and testing when those services are no longer universally free.
- Under most plans, employees will likely have to share costs (e.g. co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance) for COVID-19 treatments—the prescription medication currently provided for free by the federal government. For now, the federal government still has millions of treatment doses and will continue to make that current supply available for free.
- Join us on Tuesday, February 28, at 2pm ET, to hear how employers can help workers know their risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 and access treatment. Register now.
WHAT WON’T CHANGE
- COVID-19 vaccines and boosters will remain free from in-network providers.
- COVID-19 treatments, vaccines and tests that are currently authorized on an emergency-use basis by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will remain available for use until further notice by the FDA.
- As noted above, the federal government will continue providing free COVID-19 vaccines and treatment as long as current supplies last.
ACTIONS FOR EMPLOYERS:
- Work with your insurance provider to offer coverage that will protect your people. The end of the COVID-19 emergency removes certain coverage requirements from health insurance plans, but you can maintain testing coverage or limit cost-sharing in your employer-sponsored plan. Consider how changes to coverage might affect employees’ access to COVID-19 services.
- Communicate the changes that employees will see in their health plans. For many employees, the emergency declarations have meant they haven’t had to consider costs of COVID-19 tests, vaccines and treatment. This will now get a little more complex. You don’t want confusion to prevent employees from accessing the services and treatment that will keep them healthy. So help them be aware of the changes that are coming in their coverage.
- Encourage employees to make use of free supplies. Every U.S. household is still entitled to 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests through COVIDtests.gov. And up to 8 tests a month are still reimbursable through group insurance through May 11. Promote these resources to ensure employees have steady access to tests even after the emergency ends. Many companies will choose to continue to provide coverage for home COVID-19 tests.
- Reinforce what works. COVID-19 is no longer the emergency it once was, thanks to vaccines, boosters, treatment and testing. Remind employees that the best ways to protect ourselves from getting sick haven’t changed—they should keep their vaccinations up to date, get tested and stay home if they’re feeling sick. Support employees who want to wear masks. And be sure that you’re maximizing indoor ventilation to reduce the risk of workplace transmission.
- Use deadlines to your advantage. Deadlines can be strong motivators. Encourage employees to get boosted now (and ahead of May 11) while vaccines remain universally free and easily accessible, regardless of who is providing them.
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