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Tina Tan, MD, discusses cost burden associated with the COVID-19 public health emergency expiration

Article

Tina Tan, MD, FAAP, FIDSA, FPIDS, editor-in-chief, Contemporary Pediatrics®, discusses how the cost burden of the federal COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) expiration on May 11, 2023, can impact testing and vaccination rates among children.

For more coverage on COVID-19, click here.

Contemporary Pediatrics®:

Hello, and thanks so much for watching. I'm Joshua Fitch, editor of Contemporary Pediatrics®.

Tina Tan, MD

I am Dr. Tina Tan, I'm the editor in chief of Contemporary Pediatrics®. I'm a professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University, and an infectious disease physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

Contemporary Pediatrics®:

Dr. Tan, thank you so much for speaking with us. As you know, the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) has expired as of today, what questions do pediatricians need to be prepared for now that this PHE has expired?

Tan:

So you know, this PHE, actually did a great service to the population because it really tried to iron out some of the disparities with regard to medical access, coverage of testing, coverage of vaccines and coverage of treatment. So it really was a great thing that we had that during the pandemic. Now, one thing that pediatricians need to be aware of is that children that are on Medicaid, as well as in the CHIPS program, some of these children may not be eligible any longer, or the families may not be eligible any longer for that and if they are eligible, they're going to have to reapply for Medicaid, which is something that over the last three years, they did not have to do. So pediatricians should be aware of that. They may also get questions about, you know, the availability and cost that might be involved with the in home testing kits, the vaccines and then some of the therapies for COVID.

Contemporary Pediatrics®:

Obviously, Dr. Tan the cost burden was one of the bigger subjects of this PHE exploration. Do you believe that potential cost burden resulting from it will affect testing and vaccination records, and what kind of, potential of course, impact could that have down the line?

Tan:

So you know, one of the major problems is that as we have come out of the peak of the pandemic, and people are going about pretty much their normal activities, what we've noticed is that even though they may test at home, and are positive, there's no record of that testing. So I think that the major impact this is going to have is that we're not going to be able to track COVID cases, the way we used to be able to track it, and because of that, we're not going to know who's infected and who needs to be treated unless they're so severe that they come, you know, to a hospital for that. The other thing is that we know that vaccination rates remain relatively low in the pediatric population, especially in the younger children. I think that if parents are going to have to pay for the vaccine, this is going to have an impact on on the vaccination rates and cause it to even become lower than there already are.

Contemporary Pediatrics®:

Thank you, Dr. Tan, from what you've heard, in the days and weeks leading up to this expiration date, do you think the cost will be the biggest impact of the pediatric space is that the vaccination rates? What do you think the biggest impact on overall pediatric care in regards to COVID-19 will be now that this PHE has expired?

Tan:

I think one of the major things that's going to happen is you're going to see more disparity. You know, and this is going to impact the ability of children to access care, to get vaccines to get testing, and then you know, if they need treatment to get treatment. So cost definitely is going to play a big role and I think what you're going to see is you're going to see again, more disparities happen. With you know, the exploration of this.

Contemporary Pediatrics®:

Dr. Tan, is there anything else you'd like to add about the PHE expiration, what you're anticipating, what you've heard up to this point?

Tan:

I think one thing that the general public needs to recognize is that COVID has not gone. You know, just because this has expired does not mean that COVID does not exist, and I think what happens is that with the exploration of this, people get the impression that COVID is not a problem anymore, and that's so far from being true. There is COVID that is still circulating and still causing disease, and if people don't stay on top of it, and test when they need to test or get vaccinated, we're gonna see outbreaks of COVID occur with some more devastating consequences now that, you know, costs may be an issue for individuals getting treated in hospitals.

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