ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) — People may soon have to start paying for COVID-19 tests and vaccines either out of pocket or with insurance. This comes as the COVID-19 public health emergency is set to end May 11.
According to Dr. Marti Sharkey, the Fayetteville City Health Officer, COVID-19 cases have been dwindling. She doesn’t think Northwest Arkansas is missing any cases. She thinks the area is making real progress against COVID-19.
She said emergencies ending will mean a lot of financial backstops that have assisted in the fight against the virus will no longer exist.
When the public health emergency ends, people with Medicare and private insurance will have to start paying for COVID-19 tests, which could become a concern.
“The fact that people will have to pay may simply mean that they will choose not to buy the tests and not to do the tests,” Deputy Director of the Program on Medicare Policy at KFF, Juliette Cubanski said.
While people with Medicare will be able to continue getting vaccine coverage for free, it may vary for those with private insurance. Specifically, Cubanski said it should be covered if the individual goes to a network provider. If not, they may face costs.
Sharkey said if you have a high deductible or specific types of insurance, your vaccine may not be covered. It will vary from person to person.
Cubanski is worried about the uninsured. When the federal vaccines run out, those people will have to pay out of pocket. The KFF’s estimate is that vaccines could cost $80 to $120.
As for how often you’ll need to get a COVID-19 shot, that could change as we get further down the line.
“The expectation is that there will be a seasonal COVID-19 vaccine out in the fall just like we have our flu vaccine,” Sharkey said.
However, she added that the federal government committed $5 billion to the development of a universal coronavirus vaccine that would be intranasal. Sharkey said the hope is that it would cover all variants of COVID-19 and would potentially last multiple years.
When it comes to isolation requirements, Sharkey believes it will remain at five days as required by the CDC for a while. However, those could be relaxed and not as strict of a guideline as the years go by.
“We’re going to be more treating it, for lack of a better example, more like the flu in that you just be responsible. If you are sick, please stay home. If you know that you are potentially contagious, please wear a mask,” Sharkey said.
President Joe Biden on Monday signed a bill into law ending the national emergency for COVID-19. That will allow the government to start rolling back on some of its emergency programs established during the pandemic.