Why the Public Health Emergency Needs to End—Right Now
- BY Sarah Coffey
The pandemic is over, but the so-called “public health emergency” persists.
In the nearly three years since the COVID-19 emergency declaration, the “emergency” has morphed from uncertainty about a pandemic into an excuse for the Left to spend more taxpayer dollars and expand welfare.
Bureaucrats have used it to grow dependency and bloat government spending—wasting resources, wreaking havoc on the American economy, and crushing families with high consumer prices in the process.
It’s time to end the public health emergency. Here’s why.
Welfare expansion is growing dependency and driving inflation.
Under the public health emergency, welfare work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) are suspended. This means those best positioned to work simply aren’t required to—because often it’s more lucrative to stay home and receive welfare benefits with no strings attached than to go to work.
Meanwhile, there are more than 10 million jobs available, and the workforce is still missing millions of workers. Work is disincentivized while government benefits are attainable with no obligation from enrollees, contributing to a stagnant workforce and related price increases.
Combined with the suspended work requirement in the program, this expansion ultimately contributes to the domino effect of bad economic policy: Spending billions in tax dollars to keep able-bodied individuals on welfare and out of the workforce has unsurprisingly fueled a labor shortage, skyrocketed consumer prices and government spending, and resulted in crushing inflation.
Multiple expansions to Medicaid made an existing problem worse.
Before the pandemic, states were expanding Medicaid to able-bodied adults under ObamaCare. Enrollment projections were already being shattered before the pandemic, leaving fewer resources for the truly needy and forcing states to spend less on other priorities because Medicaid became so expensive.
The pandemic-era “Medicaid handcuffs” made this problem even worse. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) promised states a 6.2 percent bump in funding on the condition that they could not remove anyone from the program—even if they became ineligible.
Now, states are still seeing Medicaid enrollment explode—there are an estimated 21 million ineligible people on the rolls. But as long as the public health emergency continues and/or states continue to opt into the extra funding, the problem will likely worsen. Meanwhile, ineligible enrollees are siphoning resources away from the people Medicaid was intended to serve—the elderly, individuals with disabilities, pregnant women, and children in foster care—and it’s costing taxpayers $16 billion per month.
The Bottom Line
Our country would see an immediate improvement in our Medicaid programs and our economy if the public health emergency were ended. Reinstating work requirements in welfare programs would revive the workforce and help tame inflation. States could unlock the Medicaid handcuffs and remove ineligible enrollees, boosting program integrity.
The president himself declared the pandemic is over back in September of this year. It’s time the administration matched their actions to the president’s words and end the public health emergency.