Photo courtesy: Cyrus May
In many ways, the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on people’s daily lives began to fade over the past few months.
In fact, organizations like the Lawrence Douglas County Public Health Department have reduced the frequency of data reporting or stopped it altogether. As of Friday, the county had recorded 182 COVID-19 deaths in more than three years since the pandemic began in March 2020, according to the Department of Health, and LMH Health said it had no hospitalizations due to the virus. It is said that the number is recorded as 1,179 people.
Another set of pandemic-related changes went into effect earlier this month, but they also reflect the waning impact of the pandemic on everyday life. As of May 11, the federal government has not classified COVID-19 as a national public health emergency. This means that some of the policies and regulations adopted at the height of the pandemic will also expire.
A panel of LMH Health last week shared with The Journal World what specifically has changed now that the public health emergency has been lifted, and what those changes mean for the average Lawrence patient. I had a conversation with
End of Rolling Medicaid coverage
Perhaps the most important change is the end of continued Medicaid coverage, but with the passage of the $1.7 trillion Omnibus Spending Bill that funds the U.S. government in fiscal 2023, that benefit will actually be reduced to three. Suspended by the federal government on May 31. Starting in 2020, states are no longer obligated to regularly check to see if people have renewed their Medicaid enrollment or are still eligible, but instead simply put everyone on a roster. .
But that’s no longer the case, and states have been given up to 12 months to return to normal Medicaid eligibility and registration practices. Traci Hoopingarner, vice president of clinical care and chief nursing officer at LMH Health, told Journal-World that Kansas began easing continued Medicaid coverage in early May. This means Medicaid subscribers will have to go back to their normal annual renewal process. Otherwise, you risk losing coverage, even if you are eligible.
“Our concern is that some people might show up and think, ‘Wow, I still have Medicaid,’ and not realize they should renew,” said Hooping. Garner said. “…When you go to a hospital, thinking about insurance and such, you may think that your treatment is being paid for, but it may not be.”
She said she encourages people in communities dependent on Medicaid coverage to visit the healthcare.gov marketplace or the federal Medicaid website. Meanwhile, those with private insurance should talk directly to their insurers if they have questions about changing their claims, Houpingarner said.
Testing and masking changes
LMH Health Announces Wearing Face Masks Will Be Optional at Most LMH Health Facilities back in march, and Douglas County has not had a blanket mask mandate for over a year. Hoopingarner told LMH Health that wearing masks and testing for the novel coronavirus will now be mandatory only for patients who have visited a hospital with symptoms of the virus. Previously, LMH Health screened all patients scheduled to be hospitalized or undergo surgery or other invasive procedures.
The relaxation of these requirements also applies to health care workers such as Christopher Penn, M.D., the hospital’s infectious disease physician.
“I have made it very clear to my patients that if they want me to wear a mask, unless they have symptoms or have some sort of reason to be in isolation, I definitely will. We will follow the patient’s wishes,” Penn said. . “…Here in the office, we just check with each person and read the situation before they enter.
Penn added that the standard for COVID-19 testing is “fairly low” in his opinion, although it has been mitigated by LMH Health because of the wide range of possible symptoms of COVID-19.
And Hoopingarner said staff will automatically wear appropriate personal protective equipment when interacting with COVID-19-positive patients. She said the hospital has PPE guidelines for infectious diseases that staff must follow.
Extensive masking does not necessarily go away forever. In the future, if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in one of LMH Health’s nursing units, patients may again be required to wear masks extensively, Houpingarner said.
“Just because a government announces the end of the coronavirus doesn’t mean it’s actually over,” Houpingarner said. “Depending on the situation, the hospital’s response may change.”
What does it stick to?
The Federal Public Health Emergency enabled Medicare subscribers to access telemedicine services regardless of geographic location, enabling people 65 and older to receive care from home. These exemptions will continue until his December 31, 2024.
Hoopingarner said the coronavirus vaccine will continue to be provided free of charge as long as the federal stockpile continues. After that, it will be covered by insurance.
For a limited time, the program, which allows people to order free coronavirus test kits by mail, will continue through June 30, Hoopingarner said. It is the result of a partnership between the two. Kansas Department of Health and the Environment and The Rockefeller Foundation.
Journal-World was unable to confirm the date by contacting KDHE officials on Friday, but entered Lawrence’s zip code to Inspection request site As a result, you will get a message that the test is still available.
Other changes that are clerical in nature
Hoopingarner said the federal government had waivers during the pandemic that allowed hospitals to work on less stringent patient records, such as when hospitals were hit by surges. This also applies to our ability to accommodate patients in units that would not otherwise be available.
As a result, she said, the overall volume of reporting that hospitals are required to do has only decreased. This is one of the many changes she said are the result of gradual adjustments in life through the pandemic.
“I think the bulk of the lifting of the state of emergency was paperwork and data collection,” Penn added. “It’s going to have some impact on the information we get from government agencies in terms of knowing if there’s a major epidemic in our area… I’m not going to get any specifics, we still know what’s going on in the hospital and I think that’s a good cross-section and we’re still seeing those numbers every day .”
What to expect in the future
Penn said vaccination guidelines have been simplified for most adults, and for those who have not yet been vaccinated, bivalent boosters are a “do it once and it’s done” until further notice. He said that it is considered necessary. However, people over the age of 65 and those with severe immunosuppression may consider talking to their health care provider about a second booster shot, he said.
Penn said getting a second booster shouldn’t disqualify him from receiving the recommended coronavirus booster in the fall. Going forward, an annual vaccination schedule, similar to the annual flu shot, will become the norm, he said.
Penn said he didn’t know what the cost of Paxlovid, the brand name for an oral drug used to treat the novel coronavirus, would be. Although the drug has not yet received full approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, it is noteworthy.
And, as has been the message from public health workers since the pandemic began in 2020, general restraint to exercise caution and use appropriate mitigation strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. is going nowhere.
“I think we have a lot of tools through the pandemic,” Kate Kuzmyak, infection prevention manager at LMH Health, told Journal World. “Hand sanitizer has become more widely available and masks have become more widely available and are being tested now. I hope you continue to use all these tools to keep you safe.”