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Why disabled travellers are concerned about Biden ending the COVID public health emergency

At the end of the day on Thursday, the Biden administration is scheduled to call an end to the coronavirus public health emergency. After beginning chemotherapy for stage 4 bile duct cancer, Melinda Utendorf, who has fibromyalgia and is deemed immunocompromised, says it feels like a slap in the face.

Even if there are fewer COVID-19 cases, the pandemic still affects a large number of people with disabilities, some of whom continue to hide, maintain social distance, and refrain from travelling.

Health professionals caution that the virus can still pose a risk, particularly for those with disabilities who may already have immune systems that are already weakened or other underlying medical issues. Disability rights activists are concerned that eliminating the pandemic’s emergency status may make it more difficult for people with disabilities to get resources.

What occurs after the state of public health emergency is over?

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, insurance companies will no longer be compelled to cover the cost of COVID-19 tests once the public health emergency around them is over.

There will no longer be any free over-the-counter tests available to people with Medicare who are enrolled in Part B, but lab-conducted charges will be paid if they are prescribed by a medical expert.

Up until September 30, 2024, state Medicaid programmes must offer COVID-19 test coverage without requiring patients to pay a copayment. State-by-state coverage will then differ after that.
The Department of Health and Human Services says it is encouraging private insurers to continue funding testing even if they are no longer compelled to do so for laboratory or over-the-counter COVID-19 tests.

“This puts a lot of lower-income people at a greater disadvantage,” said Amy Gaeta, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who researches disability and technology and has invisible problems as well as nerve damage in one leg. Given that so many disabled persons have poor incomes, especially if they receive disability welfare assistance, this is extremely alarming.

The HHS claims that, at least temporarily, the conclusion of the public health emergency will “generally not affect” access to immunisations and some medications, such as Paxlovid and Lagevrio.

Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, stated earlier this year that stocks of COVID-19 vaccines and medications are anticipated to run out this summer or this autumn. When that occurs, according to Jha, those with public or private insurance will continue to receive free COVID-19 vaccinations.

As for treatments, once stockpiles run out, insured patients will probably have to start paying out-of-pocket to cover at least some of the expense. Through September 30, 2024, Medicaid will continue to pay for services without requiring copayments. After then, state-specific coverage and cost-sharing will apply.

“The uninsured, of course, will not be able to get vaccines for free and treatments for free under the regular insurance system,” Jha stated. “We’re developing a strategy on that,”

Since the CDC will no longer have the legal authority to demand that all labs submit the results of coronavirus testing, the change will also have an impact on how the United States reports COVID data.

The Biden administration plans to abolish the vaccine restrictions for foreign flight travellers this week. The modification will take place on Friday at 12:01 a.m. EDT.

What the end of the public health emergency means for those who are impaired

The shift on Thursday comes after the virus’s national emergency was declared over in April. In conjunction with the public health emergency, it was initially scheduled to conclude on Thursday.

The CDC estimates that up to a quarter of the adult population in the country has some form of disability, hence ending the pandemic’s emergency classification has drawn criticism from members of the broad and diverse disability community.

The American Association of People with Disabilities expressed disappointment in Biden’s decision to call off the national emergency in an April statement because it “perpetuates the notion that COVID-19 is no longer a threat.”

The World Health Organisation is also revising its terminology in relation to the virus and last week declared that COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency.

According to AAPD CEO and President Maria Town, “the abrupt end of the National Emergency is the first step towards the elimination of resources and mitigation efforts for those who are still affected by Covid-19.” The Administration’s continuous denial of COVID-19’s toll and its long-term effects, notably on individuals with disabilities, the elderly, and communities of colour, has left us feeling very dissatisfied and disillusioned.

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