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Citing Medicaid costs, Reynolds calls for an end to Public Health Emergency

By: - December 19, 2022 3:38 pm

An illustration of the COVID-19 virus. (Image by Fotograzia/Getty Images)

Declaring that “we have returned to life as normal,” Iowa’s Kim Reynolds joined 24 other Republican governors Monday in calling on President Biden to end the federally declared Public Health Emergency.

The Public Health Emergency, or PHE, is tied to the COVID-19 pandemic and is scheduled to expire on Jan. 11, 2023, although President Biden is expected to extend it into April 2023.

The Republican governors are urging the president to let the declaration expire in April. In the letter, they state their concern is the effect the declaration has had on increasing the number of people eligible for Medicaid – an expansion they say is “costing states hundreds of millions of dollars” as they help pay for beneficiaries’ medical care.

“It is time we move on from the pandemic,” the governors’ letter states. “The PHE is negatively affecting states, primarily by artificially growing our population covered under Medicaid, regardless of whether individuals continue to be eligible under the program. Since the beginning of the pandemic, states have added 20 million individuals to the Medicaid rolls, an increase of 30%, and those numbers continue to climb as the PHE continues to be extended every 90 days.”

In a written statement Monday, Reynolds said, “We have come so far since the beginning of the pandemic — we now have the tools and information necessary to help protect Iowans from COVID-19. We have returned to life as normal, and it is time the federal government’s policies reflected that.”

Iowa continues to see an increasing number of new COVID-19 infections each week, although the rate of increase has slowed recently.

On Dec. 14, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 3,704 new documented infections among those who had not previously contracted COVID-19. That represented a 6% increase in the state’s weekly infection rate.

The total number of new reported infections might have been as high as 4,921, based on state testing data — which would represent a 7% increase from the previous week. Those positive test results include an unspecified number of infections among those who contracted COVID-19 earlier in the pandemic.

The state does not report those reinfections to federal health officials as part of Iowa’s weekly case numbers. It also does not track the results of rapid, at-home tests.

Two weeks ago, documented infections increased at least 28%. At that time, there were 256 Iowans hospitalized with COVID-19, of which 16 were under intensive care.

Last week, the state reported 27 new deaths linked to the virus, for a total of 10,343 since the start of the pandemic, although it’s not clear from released data when those deaths occurred.

Joint Letter to President Biden on the Public Health Emergency

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.