May 11, 2023 - COVID

What the end of the COVID public health emergency means for Florida

Illustration of a hand pulling a plug from an outlet shaped like COVID-19.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Today marks the end of the federal COVID public health emergency.

Why it matters: Although most emergency orders across Florida have already expired, a number of health care changes that both local providers and patients have grown used to during the pandemic will disappear, Axios Vitals' Tina Reed reports.

What's happening: Starting today, insurance companies are no longer required to cover at-home COVID tests — meaning they won't be free anymore for many people.

  • Floridians can expect to pay more for any COVID tests performed at a hospital, clinic or doctor's office.
  • The public health emergency expiration also cuts off a pipeline of data that tallied the pandemic's human toll and offered a view of how the stealthy virus spread, Axios' Sabrina Moreno reports.

Zoom in: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will stop tracking COVID community levels, part of an effort launched in March 2020 to help individuals gauge their infection risk.

  • The government has also scaled back what hospital and local health departments are required to report, including patients' age, race and ethnicity.
  • And without an emergency, states no longer have to divulge public health data, though wastewater surveillance and hospital admissions will continue to offer some clues.

Meanwhile, telehealth rules created during the pandemic that allowed for the prescribing of controlled substances without an in-person visit were poised to be phased out this week, but were extended at the last minute.

Of note: COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, will remain free with public and private insurance in most cases, per the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), Axios' Kelly Tyko writes.

  • Medicaid will continue to cover all COVID-19 vaccinations without a co-pay or cost-sharing through Sept. 30, 2024.

What we're watching: It's unclear if Floridians will still be able to get free vaccines, tests and treatments from the remainder of federally funded supplies, or if contract tracing will continue.

  • Florida Department of Health representatives didn't respond to Axios' requests for comment.
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