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What is up
President Biden announced on Monday that two national emergencies which have provided the legal basis for much of the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic ends on May 11.
While the declaration of emergency had symbolic weight, its most important effect was to give the government extended power to take actions it could not do under normal circumstances. Since separate national and public health emergencies were declared in early 2020, they have provided legal leeway for everything from vaccine development, mask mandates, expanded health coverage and telemedicine, updated hospital procedures , free COVID testing and treatment, as well as the controversial immigration policy known as Title 42.
Biden’s decision came shortly after Republicans in the House of Representatives unveiled a plan to pass legislation that would end the emergency immediatelybut these bills are unlikely to become law.
Although some of the most substantial elements of the federal pandemic response have already been removed, the end of emergency declarations will take place. noticeable effects. Vaccines, tests and treatment – which have been mostly free for the last three years – can bring some new costs, especially for the uninsured. Free home deliveries of COVID tests will end, as will the extra funding that helped hospitals bear the costs of treating COVID patients.
One of the most important remaining policies that came out of emergency declarations, rules that prevent states from take people off Medicaid, will end in April thanks to a provision passed by Congress at the end of last year. In short order 15 million people are expected to lose Medicaid coverage when that happens, including nearly 7 million who still qualify for the program but may fall through the cracks in the bureaucracy.
Why there is debate
Many public health experts agreed with Biden’s decision to end the emergency, arguing that the decision marks an important transition to treating the coronavirus as an endemic health threat rather than an immediate crisis. “Everyone wants to pass – not necessarily feel that we can’t do better – but pass to the next phase, so we can really start to assimilate a form of approaching normality.” Dr. AS Anthony Faucithat was the face of the government’s pandemic response, he told Bloomberg Law.
Conservatives have widely argued that the move is long overdue and have accused the Biden administration of clinging to its emergency powers as a way to impose unpopular policies on the American people. Some are making the case that the emergency should end immediately, despite Biden’s warning that doing so would create “widespread chaos” in the health care system.
But critics of the decision say that with around 500 people dying each day, the COVID emergency is far from over. They argue that scaling back support for testing, vaccinations and treatment will leave Americans — especially those at greatest risk — vulnerable to life-threatening infections and undermine the country’s ability to stem any future growth. caused by potential new variants of the virus.
The end of the public health emergency may affect ongoing legal battles over pandemic-era immigration restrictions and Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. Both matters have been considered by the Supreme Court, and it remains to be seen how this could influence the decisions of the judges.
The country has to move to a sustained long-term COVID strategy
“Covid has become endemic, and the focus going forward must go from treating it like the terrible emergency it once was to managing its effects – in particular, protecting those who are still vulnerable to severe results from the virus “. – Leana S. Wen, Washington Post
The emergency was used as an excuse for a major overreach by the administration
“I don’t think Biden really believes we’re still in a state of emergency. … Yet the president and his administration have enjoyed the extra powers that have accompanied the national emergency declaration. And they’re working hard to hang on to that authority, that has given the executive branch greater control over our lives.—Ingrid Jacques, USA Today
The emergency must end now, not in May
“Congress should ignore the administration’s false alarms about immediately ending emergency declarations and unnecessary Covid restrictions.” -Drew Keyes, National Review
The emergency cannot last forever, and there will never be a perfect time to end it
“The end of the Public Health Emergency will create some challenges (especially to the prices of vaccines/drugs). But it has to happen at some point and May (gives us 3 months to prepare) seems like a good time and any”. — Bob Wachterchairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco
Biden made the right choice, but there are real risks if the wind is mismanaged
“The public has moved on and Biden is right to formally end it. It will have profound implications for vaccines, treatments and public messaging. Unveiling powers and funding will be daunting.” — Lawrence Gostinhealth law expert
The COVID health crisis is far from over
“I have political/financial pressure for this, but at 500 deaths/day Covid remains a devastating threat to public health. … Could we see a new variant from China? And who is immunocompromised? Still a lot is happening.” — Dr. Peter Hotezvaccine scientist
The end of emergencies will mean that Americans will again be at the mercy of our broken health care system
“American health care is, like everything else, getting back to normal — which means it’s going to be harder for some people to access the health care they need.” – Dylan Scott, Vox
The official declaration of emergency could send a dangerous message to Americans
“This kind of end of the statement carries a symbolic weight. And so there will be people who say: ‘Great, I’m not worried anymore.’ And I think it will be a little difficult to manage, and it’s up to public health officials and those of us who are working on it to convey also that this is not completely finished.” – Jen Kates, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation NPR
There are not nearly enough supports for vulnerable doctors to rationalize the end of the emergency
“What policies have been put in place to protect the most vulnerable? What advances have been made in paid sick/family/insurance leave? What have politicians learned to ensure this never happens again? But still, the emergency of public health will end.” — Dr. Uché Blackstockpublic health expert
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Illustrative photo: Kelli R. Grant/Yahoo News; photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP, Celal Gunes / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, Getty Images