The Never-Ending Covid Emergency – WSJ


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Monday’s news leak that the Biden administration will extend the Covid-19 public health emergency — which was due to end Friday — by another 90 days came as no surprise to a White House that appears to want an eternal emergency .

The Biden administration claims the statement offers crucial regulatory flexibility. However, emergency approvals for vaccines and treatments are subject to a separate law. The Department of Health and Human Services could also permanently create other regulatory flexibilities, such as Medicare coverage for telehealth services.

Why keep prolonging the state of emergency? One reason is that in March 2020, Congress prohibited states from removing ineligible individuals from Medicaid lists during the emergency, in exchange for more federal funding. Medicaid enrollment has increased to 95 million from 71 million in December 2019 – 30% of Americans are now enrolled. It’s also a boon for insurers in states that pay per Medicaid participant. Hospitals and medical associations are supporting the expansion of the emergency over concerns that state Medicaid payments will fall if the federal filip disappears.

Another reason: Congress in March 2020 suspended requirements for working with food stamps during the emergency and sweetened benefits in states that have maintained their own declarations. In April, 41.2 million Americans received food stamps — an average of $228 a month per person — about 4.4 million more than before the pandemic.

Yet if the White House believes Covid remains an emergency, why hasn’t the Food and Drug Administration approved the Novavax vaccine? The World Health Organization gave the green light in December. The FDA’s Advisory Board almost unanimously approved the vaccine over a month ago, in part because its traditional technology could encourage vaccination among those who hesitate.

Covid should only not be an emergency if it makes sense to expand the welfare state.

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Appeared in the print edition on July 12, 2022. The Never-Ending Covid Emergency – WSJ

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