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Covid-19 remains a U.S. public health emergency, administration says

The government has repeatedly said it would give states 60 days’ notice if it ended the declaration, which would have been Monday. But the deadline passed without notification.

The declaration is now expected to be extended by up to a further 90 days.

Reported cases of Covid-19 in the US as a whole have more than doubled over the past month and are technically trending up in all states, although three states are considered “stable.”

The public health emergency declaration allows many Americans to receive free Covid-19 testing, therapeutic treatments and vaccines. Once it ends, people could face out-of-pocket expenses depending on whether they’re covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance. But immunizations would generally continue to be free for those covered by Medicare and private insurance, while state Medicaid programs would decide whether to continue immunization coverage for their enrollments.

Also, Medicare has relaxed telemedicine rules, allowing many more beneficiaries to access such services during declaration. Telehealth services are no longer just limited to people living in rural areas, and participants can conduct home visits instead of having to travel to a healthcare facility and receive a wider range of services via telemedicine. This flexibility ends for most beneficiaries after the emergency is over.

And states are not involuntarily withdrawing residents from Medicaid during the declaration to receive more generous federal funding. Up to 14 million people could lose Medicaid coverage after the emergency ends, according to separate projections Kaiser and the Urban Institute.

Also, thanks to the declaration, many low-income families are getting improved food stamps, even though some states have ended their own public health emergencies and shut down beefed-up allotments.

A separate emergency declaration allows emergency authorization of tests, treatments and vaccines. The end date is set by the Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The administration continues the public health emergency as it seeks new funding for treatments and vaccines from Congress. The Senate reached a tentative bipartisan agreement in early April to provide an additional $10 billion in Covid-19 aid, less than half what the White House originally requested. It would allow the Biden administration to buy more vaccines and therapeutics, and maintain testing capacity and research. But it doesn’t include $5 billion in funding for global Covid-19 relief, nor would it top up the program that pays to test, treat and vaccinate the uninsured.

But the package has stalled amid disagreements within Senate Democrats over whether to allow a vote on a controversial Trump-era pandemic restriction on the border.

On Tuesday, the administration announced that people can order a third round of free at-home Covid-19 tests from the federal government.

This story has been updated with additional reports.

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