President Biden’s administration announced the end of the public health emergency (PHE) for COVID-19 as May 11, 2023. There are many questions about what that means as it relates to COVID-19 vaccination, testing and treatment. The COVID-19 response is not fully tied to the public health emergency and many changes will be gradual. In addition to the public health emergency coming to an end, the FDA, CDC and their respective committees VRBPAC and ACIP have been meeting to discuss changes to COVID-19 vaccination recommendations. Some of those changes were implemented on April 19, 2023. The American Lung Association will be monitoring these changes and has developed this easy-to-use website to provide updated information regarding changes to COVID-19 vaccination, testing and treatment.
Changes to Your Healthcare Coverage
COVID-19 Vaccination Sites
COVID-19 vaccines including boosters are currently free of charge and will not be impacted by the end of the public health emergency. There is a supply of federally purchased vaccines and as long as they are available, COVID-19 vaccines will remain free, regardless of insurance coverage. COVID-19 vaccinations may be accessed:
- At your doctor, pharmacist, or community health center
- At your state health department or
- By using the COVID-19 vaccine locator
- Learn more about current COVID-19 vaccination recommendations.
How to Access COVID-19 Testing
Access to COVID-19 testing will change due to the ending of the public health emergency. This includes at-home, PCR and rapid tests.
Where can I get tested for COVID-19?
- COVID-19 tests can be purchased online, in pharmacies and in retail stores.
- Visit a community-based testing location such as a pharmacy or health center.
- Contact your local health department or healthcare provider.
If you are uninsured, you can search for a no-cost testing location site using CDC’s locator.
Requirements that Medicare and private health insurance plans cover up to eight at-home COVID-19 tests per month at no cost will end with the public health emergency. Medicare will still cover laboratory COVID-19 tests (like PCR tests) at no cost. For individuals with private health insurance, coverage and costs for both laboratory and at-home testing will depend on your individual plan. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will continue to cover COVID-19 testing (including at-home testing) through September 2024.
For more information about COVID-19 testing guidance.
How to Access COVID-19 Treatment
Talk to your healthcare provider to learn whether treatment for COVID-19 is an option for you. Healthcare providers can test for COVID-19 and prescribe treatment.
If you don’t have a healthcare provider, there are Test to Treat locations available nationwide or you can connect with your local health department or community health center.
COVID-19 treatments purchased by the federal government will continue to be free to the public, regardless of insurance coverage. Any treatments not purchased by the federal government may require out of pocket costs.
Treatment for COVID-19 could include doctors’ visits, hospitalizations, prescription medications and other medical services. Coverage for and the cost of these services will depend on your individual health insurance plan. State Medicaid and CHIP plans must cover COVID-19 treatments without cost-sharing through September 2024. If you are uninsured, you will have to pay out of pocket for COVID-19 testing and treatment.
For more information about available COVID-19 treatments and recommendations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does ending the public health emergency (PHE) mean COVID-19 is over?
No. The virus that causes COVID-19 is still circulating and infecting hundreds of thousands of Americans weekly. Public health emergencies are temporary, and expiration does not mean all policies will end immediately. CDC, state and local health departments will continue to provide updated guidance.
The American Lung Association and CDC recommends:
- everyone be up to date on their recommended COVID-19 vaccination
- get tested right away if you are experiencing symptoms
- seek treatment if you are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness and test positive
- stay home if you are sick
What will change when the public health emergency ends?
Under the public health emergency, the government was able to fully cover the cost of most COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccines. When the public health emergency ends, some coverage for COVID-19 will become more like coverage for any other medical condition such as influenza for example. See the dropdowns by insurance type above to see how your coverage is impacted.
Do I need an updated (bivalent) booster?
Maybe. People 6 years and older who are unvaccinated or received only monovalent vaccine doses are recommended to receive one bivalent mRNA vaccination. Additionally, in April 2023 the CDC made the decision that people ages 65+ have the option to receive one additional bivalent mRNA vaccine dose at least 4 months after your first bivalent mRNA dose. Additional doses of bivalent mRNA vaccines may be considered if you are immunocompromised.
I’ve heard there will be changes to the COVID-19 vaccination recommendations, what are they?
The FDA, CDC and their advisory committees VRBPAC and ACIP have been meeting to determine simplification and streamlining of COVID-19 vaccination recommendations as we enter this next phase of the pandemic where cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been decreasing steadily. In essence, they are determining:
- who should get vaccinated against COVID-19 (for example: children who have never been vaccinated or infected with COVID-19 and high-risk populations)
- what vaccine should people get (for example: the original monovalent vaccine or the updated bivalent vaccine)
- when should Americans be vaccinated against COVID-19 (for example: should it be an annual vaccination in the fall like influenza)
- how often should people be vaccinated for optimal protection against COVID-19
- COVID-19 vaccination recommendations can be viewed on the Lung Association’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker page.
More information to come.
Page last updated: May 31, 2023