NEW YORK (WABC) -- The federal COVID emergency is ending and that means big changes on everything from tests and treatments to vaccines.
The public health emergency declared in 2020 in response to the pandemic comes to a close on Thursday.
The end will eliminate many areas of health care savings and coverage which will impact millions of Americans.
Many consumers don't realize big changes are coming as of midnight, but the good news is vaccines and boosters will continue to be free.
However, when it comes to COVID-related care, what's covered is going to depend on what kind of insurance you have.
You may have to pay for certain things that were free: deductibles, co-pays and medicine -- along with a lot of out-of-network care that was covered during the emergency.
So it's important to check now if a provider is in or out-of-network, because you don't want to get stuck with a bill for thousands.
And there will be changes to the at-home COVID test kits that were once free.
"The demand is so high we have been running out of products every day," said pharmacist and owner of Hudson Drug of Cresskill Yaz Shah.
Pharmacists like Shah have been running out of COVID swab kits. Every month they were free throughout the pandemic, but on May 12 you'll have to shell out of pocket.
"It's hard to keep it in stock on a day-to-day basis because ever since word got out Medicare will stop paying for it as of May 11, we've been getting a run on them every day," Shah said.
But before you waste money hoarding kits, be aware the at-home tests have a short shelf life. That's why you need to check the expiration dates and discard old tests.
But note that testing with an in-network provider will continue to be free under original Medicare. If you have the Advantage Plan or another provider, you'll likely have to start paying for testing.
Patients will also take on costs related to COVID-related visits and services that were free under the Public Health Emergency, and may have to pay for everything from prescriptions, deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance costs.
The exception is Medicaid recipients. Tests and treatment for COVID will continue to be free for now. But it's very important that most Medicaid recipients must re-enroll.
"Millions of people in this country will lose benefits," said Maria Alvarez, the Executive Director of the New York StateWide Senior Action Council.
States were banned from disenrolling people during the COVID crisis, but that protection is over.
"Anybody who hasn't recertified in the last three years has to start sending in all their applications because then they're in danger of not getting their benefits," Alvarez said.
That means one in four Americans - 8 million New Yorkers on Medicaid - are going to have to re-enroll this spring.
If you're a recipient, watch your mail for letters from the state with instructions on how to re-enroll along with deadlines.
Other important things to know:
Telehealth: Being able to remotely interact with a doctor nurse or specialist will be extended at least until December of 2024, which mean providers will still be able to talk to you over video calls and prescribe medicine.
But how much is covered depends on in-network and out-of-network providers and your insurance -- you really need to check because while you may have to start cost-sharing for some services, you may actually qualify for some programs you were not eligible for previously.
Vaccine requirements: Starting at midnight, international travelers will not have to show proof of vaccination to enter the country.
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