The White House announced on January 30 that the public health emergency regarding COVID-19 would end in May. The decision to discontinue the emergency will have far-reaching implications for numerous health measures that many Americans have depended on. These include free immunizations, booster doses, testing, and treatments.
However, it will also result in millions of Americans losing health insurance through Medicaid. As the programs resume normal operations, the Biden administration predicts that 15 million people will lose Medicaid or CHIP coverage. Such populations account for 17% of Medicaid’s total enrollment nationwide.
According to a federal report, many of the 15 million will be dropped because they no longer qualify. Unfortunately, nearly half will be dropped for procedural reasons, such as failing to respond to requests for updated personal information. Poverty is a factor that can make it difficult to access needed information. For example, researchers estimate that more than approximately 42 million people in America lack access to high-speed internet.
In addition, there are other barriers due to disabilities or language barriers. Disabled people are often sent inaccessible healthcare information. Stuart Salvador, 37, was left with limited vision and hearing following a case of shingles at 28. CoxHealth and Mercy hospital systems sent him to collections many times. This occurred because healthcare providers sent him bills he couldn’t read.
States that could be particularly affected include Nevada. Since February 2020, Nevada’s Medicaid and CHIP enrollment has increased by 47%. Many people signed up around the beginning of the pandemic when the state’s jobless rate reached nearly 30%.
In California, officials estimate that two million people will lose Medicaid coverage come May. Instead, some people will be moved to a subsidized insurance plan. The plan will require people to pay a monthly premium based on income.
Medicaid is a lifeline for millions of vulnerable Americans. Losing coverage could mean that people remain uninsured. Without insurance, people cannot access the medical services they need. They won’t be able to afford medications, doctor visits, preventative care, and other crucial services. For some people losing insurance is a matter of life or death.
Frost, Riordan. “Pandemic Highlights Disparities in High-Speed Internet Service.” Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University, 8 Sept. 2021, https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/blog/pandemic-highlights-disparities-high-speed-internet-service.
Galewitz, Phil. “As Pandemic-Era Medicaid Provisions Lapse, Millions Approach a Coverage Cliff.” Kaiser Health News, Kaiser Family Foundation, 2 Feb. 2023, https://khn.org/news/article/medicaid-unwinding-coverage-loss-states-post-pandemic/.
Park, Alice. “What End of COVID-19 Public Health Emergency in U.S. Means.” Time, Time Inc., 31 Jan. 2023, https://time.com/6251520/covid-19-public-health-emergency-ends-what-changes/.
Weber, Lauren, and Hannah Recht. “Medical Bills Remain Inaccessible for Many Visually Impaired Americans.” NPR, NPR, 1 Dec. 2022, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/12/01/1139730806/blind-disability-accessibility-medical-bills.