DENVER (KDVR) — The first local state of emergency came on March 12, 2020, and was originally supposed to last for only a week. Over three years later, the federal public health emergency declared at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic is coming to an end.
May 11 marks the end of the public health emergency and the beginning of many notable changes that may affect Coloradans’ health care, like changes to insurance coverage, costs and access to certain COVID-19 services.
Here are some of the changes you can expect and ways to prepare for the end of the PHE.
Insurance companies and Medicare will no longer be required to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 test kits, according to Arapahoe County. Though some private insurers may choose to continue that coverage, there will no longer be a nationwide rule. However, tests will remain covered by Medicaid.
Additionally, the cost for any COVID-19 test performed at a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office may rise with the end of the requirement barring insurers from charging copays or any other fees related to COVID-19 testing.
You can still order free tests before the PHE ends on May 11.
All Health First Colorado and Child Health Plan Plus members were allowed to keep their coverage during the PHE regardless of a change in eligibility, but after May 11, all states must review the qualifications of all members of the medical assistance programs.
Members should make sure their personal information including address and contact information is up to date to ensure they receive a renewal packet. This can be done on the Health First Colorado app or online. CHP+ members can call 1-800-359-1991 for help, available in multiple languages.
COVID vaccines, treatments
Free vaccines and vaccination access will not immediately be affected, but the federal supply of COVID-19 vaccines and boosters is likely to run out this fall or winter, according to Arapahoe County. Because the vaccine is considered preventative care, most insurance plans will cover it like a flu shot, but that varies by provider.
Children will still have access to free vaccines through the federally funded Vaccines for Children Program. Medicare Part B, the state’s Medicaid program Health First Colorado and CHP+ will continue to cover the vaccine cost.
There is still time to find a free COVID-19 vaccination clinic near you. The CDC updated and simplified vaccine recommendations on April 19. Those between ages 6 and 65 are considered up-to-date if they have had an updated bivalent mRNA dose since September 2022. The CDC recommends that immunocompromised individuals and those over 65 get another bivalent mRNA dose.
There will be no change in treatment coverage or access to federally-distributed oral antivirals. Medicaid will continue to cover COVID-19 treatment through the end of Sept. 2024.
Arapahoe County recommends that Coloradans stay in contact with their health insurance providers for coverage updates, as well as make sure they are up-to-date on vaccinations.