No more free test kits, less data: What the end of the COVID public health emergency means in Colorado |

No more free test kits, less data: What the end of the COVID public health emergency means in Colorado

Meg Wingerter
The Denver Post

Starting this week, at-home tests for COVID-19 will no longer be free, but other changes from the end of the federal government’s public health emergency won’t be as obvious.

The public health emergency, declared in January 2020, will lapse Thursday, but many people may not notice a difference. Despite the association between the public health emergency and measures like mask mandates in many people’s minds, nearly all anti-COVID precautions already have been lifted. The end of continuous Medicaid coverage during the pandemic also is no longer linked to the end of the public health emergency, and the state has already started determining who still qualifies.

There will be some changes, however. A rule requiring insurance companies to cover eight at-home tests monthly for each member will end, though Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program will cover tests through September 2024. Emergency regulations allowing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect more data will also expire, meaning that the picture of how the virus is behaving will become fuzzier.

Colorado’s vaccine buses will make their last trip this week, though vaccines will remain free to everyone for the time being, since the federal government purchased them in bulk. People with insurance still won’t have to pay out of pocket when the stockpile runs out, but uninsured adults will have to pay the full cost. Free shots are available to uninsured kids through the Vaccines for Children program.

Dee Dee Gilliam, endemic COVID-19 manager at the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, said she doesn’t foresee a problem when publicly run vaccine sites shut down, since most people have access to a pharmacy or a clinic. Denver recreation centers will continue giving out free at-home tests while supplies last, and the health department will provide them to settings like homeless shelters for the indefinite future, she said.

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