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Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

UnitedHealthcare is delaying a new policy, at least until the "end of the national public health emergency period," that would have declined or limited coverage of an emergency room visit if the visit was found to be non-emergent after the fact.

The big picture: Patients, doctors and hospitals slammed the policy, arguing it violated federal law that requires all emergency care to be covered as long as a "prudent layperson" believes it was an emergency.

Between the lines: The coronavirus pandemic already led to large reductions in patients seeking ER care, leaving experts to wonder why the nation's largest health insurer now wanted to initiate a change that would force patients to diagnose themselves and self-ration care.

  • Anthem tried an almost identical policy back in 2018 and is facing a lawsuit from emergency physicians over that policy.

Go deeper

Sep 9, 2021 - Health

HHS awards over $18M in grants to bolster students' health care access

Students and parents in line to enter school. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Biden administration has awarded over $18 million in grants to expand students' access to health care and mental health support as the new school year takes off, according to new numbers shared with Axios.

Why it matters: Both children's mental health and their utilization of mental health services worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, per research from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). The return to in-person instruction could also lead to increased health risks depending on masking and vaccinations in the community.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

Gottlieb: CDC hampered U.S. response to COVID

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The CDC moved too slowly at several points in the coronavirus pandemic, ultimately hindering the U.S. response, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb writes in a new book, Uncontrolled Spread.

The big picture: The book argues that American intelligence agencies should have a much bigger role in pandemic preparedness, even if that's sometimes at the expense of public health agencies like the CDC.

911's digital makeover

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A next-generation 911 would allow the nation's 6,000 911 centers to accept texts, videos and photos.

The big picture: U.S. emergency communications have remained stubbornly analog, but Congress is about to take another run at dragging 911 into the digital age.