Ending of the COVID-19 Related Public and National Health Emergency Declarations: Implications for Medically Underserved Populations in Tennessee

Author(s): Donald J. Alcendor, Patricia Matthews- Juarez, Duane Smoot, James E.K. Hildreth, Paul D. Juarez

The Biden administration decided to end the COVID-19 National and Public Health emergencies on May 11, 2023. These emergency declarations were established by the Trump Administration in early 2020. Under the COVID-19 emergency declarations, US citizens were provided with COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and treatments at little or no cost. The declarations allowed the federal government the option of waiving and or modifying government programs such Medicare, Medicaid. The emergency declarations were directly tied to other COVID-19 related provisions that have also expired that includes Economic Security (CARES) Act, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (CAA). In addition, there were other federal and state emergency programs that were provided and too numerous to report here. At the time of this writing, the state of Tennessee continues to have moderate and sporadic spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Tennessee has higher than the national average of uninsured and underinsured people in the US. In Tennessee, more than 600,000 people are uninsured or underinsured in 2023 according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The ending of the PHE greatly impact coverage, cost, and access to COVID related services that will disproportionately affect the uninsured and medically underserved populations in Tennessee, the south in general, and throughout the US. Medically underserved populations are those groups with disparities in primary care, living in poverty, older, or having higher than expected infant mortality.

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