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The End of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency: Lessons Learned from the Pandemic and Implications for People

Published On December 5, 2022

Playbook for Federal and State Policymakers

The COVID-19 pandemic upended the world and our entire U.S. health care system – killing and sickening millions, and forcing us to focus on the cracks in our health care system and how it does not work for so many people. The pandemic highlighted and exacerbated long-standing inequities in our health care system for people of color, low-income people, people with a disability, people who are uninsured, and many others. 

The pandemic, and resulting policy responses, also unleashed an unprecedented level of flexibility and innovation across our entire system.  This versatility enhanced people’s ability to obtain and keep health care coverage, while simultaneously allowing for increased flexibility in how and when they access health care services. 

Many policy flexibilities created during the pandemic and public health emergency (PHE) helped people access health care services that became more affordable, dependable, personalized, and easy to understand. Unfortunately, many of these policy flexibilities were temporary and are set to end when the PHE does. Many policymakers have recognized the progress that has been made and created permanent policies that meet people’s needs, improves access to care, and advances health equity. These proposed policies can serve as a replicable model and guide for other policymakers across the country. As a result, the end of the COVID-19 PHE provides federal and state policymakers an opportunity to enact long-term solutions that will ensure equitable access to health care for all. 

To help federal and state policymakers continue and build upon the progress made during the pandemic and PHE, United States of Care created the below playbook with a people- and equity-centered lens to identify:

  • Pandemic-era policy flexibilities, their impact on people’s health care, and implications for people if the policy flexibilities are discontinued;
  • Federal and state initiatives that help fill in the gaps; and
  • Federal and state opportunities to advance a health care system that is affordable, dependable, personalized, and easy to navigate.

Playbook Contents: