Florida Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Florida Seniors Will See Changes When Covid Public Health Emergency Ends

PHE Ends

The nationwide Public Health Emergency (PHE) brought about by the Covid pandemic is scheduled to end on May 11, 2023. It has been renewed every 90 days since it was first declared in March 2020. The end of the Public Health Emergency will usher in several important changes for older Floridians. Among them:


Medicare 3 Day Rule Will Return


As we have reported before, Medicare covers a period of skilled nursing care only if it follows a three-day hospital stay. This rule was suspended during the pandemic, but will return when the PHE ends on May 11.

What this means for you:

If you are hospitalized, you should remain vigilant as to whether the hospital considers you an inpatient or if you are under “observation status.” Make sure you ask, because the treatment you receive under each classification code will probably feel exactly the same. Observation status does not qualify as a legitimate hospital stay for Medicare coverage of post-acute care. If your hospital stay has been classified as such, you may end up having to pay the rehabilitation facility out of pocket. If you find out that your stay is considered observation only, consider asking for it to be changed.


Medicaid Eligibility Will Be Re-Examined


During the Public Health Emergency, the “continuous enrollment provision” prevented Florida and other states from removing anyone from their Medicaid rolls. Once the Public Health Emergency ends, Florida will commence re-assessing the eligibility of Medicaid recipients.

What this means for you:

If your loved one is receiving Medicaid benefits for long-term care, make sure all your paperwork is in order and in compliance with all Medicaid rules. For example, to maintain eligibility the Medicaid recipient must have no more than $2,000 in countable assets in his/her name.


You May Pay More For Covid-Related Health Care  


Free Covid vaccines, home tests kits, clinical tests, and treatments may be phased out.

What this means for you:

Depending on your insurance coverage, you will likely start paying some of the costs for in-home tests, tests from clinicians, vaccines, as well as treatments such as Paxlovid. Some people could also see higher insurance premiums if the treatment costs are substantial. You will have to check your health insurance policy to determine how it will handle the changes.


Stay Covid-Aware 


Do not confuse the end of the PHE with the disappearance of Covid. Although the dreaded “winter surge” was less severe than feared, Covid is still with us. Florida Department of Health data shows that from February 10 through February 16, there were 14,026 new cases of Covid in the state, with the over 65 age group disproportionately affected. National statistics from the CDC show that 13,690 people died from Covid in January 2023, the majority of whom were age 65 and older.

What this means for you:

Joshua Sharfstein of the  Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health acknowledges that Covid is under better control now, but urges people to stay vigilant. “The virus doesn’t care whether there’s a public health emergency declaration or not,” he says. Experts recommend that older people, especially those who have underlying illnesses or who are immuno-compromised, continue to wear a mask, particularly in areas that are crowded and poorly ventilated. Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, sums it up this way: People should be “careful, not carefree.”