Healthcare — The days of free COVID tests are numbered

🎤 Beyoncé has officially announced the dates for her Renaissance Tour this year. Will Ticketmaster be able to keep up with the demand, or should we expect another congressional hearing?

In health news, the public health emergency label for COVID-19 will end on May 11, which likely means the end of free testing.

Welcome to The Hill’s Health Care Overview, where we keep track of the latest policy moves and news affecting your health. We are Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi.

The end of the public health emergency will cancel the free tests

The end of the COVID-19 public health emergency on May 11 will mark the end of an era in the US health care system, as many Americans will have to pay for care that for the past three years has been free.

Experts said the changes related to the public health emergency would not be earth-shaking.

When the public health emergency ends, the biggest change facing the majority of Americans will be that the days of free, readily available testing for COVID-19 will likely be over.

  • Currently, anyone with private insurance can get up to eight tests a month. This will disappear after the emergency is over. Private insurance may no longer cover the full cost of over-the-counter tests, and patients may first need a prescription for a PCR test.
  • Vaccines and treatments will continue to be free as long as the government supply is sufficient.
  • “On May 12, you can still walk into a pharmacy and get your bivalent vaccine. Free of charge. On May 12th, if you get COVID, you can still get your Paxlovid. Free of charge. None of this changes,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha tweeted Wednesday.

The biggest shock to society is likely to come once federal supplies of vaccines and treatments are exhausted and costs are shifted to the private sector.

Overall, the changes made to the U.S. health care system as a result of COVID-19 were probably “the closest we’ve come to universal health coverage in the United States,” said Jen Cates, senior vice president of KFF, formerly of the Family Foundation Kaiser.

Read more here

Bipartisan senators criticize FDA for regulating vaping

A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday criticized the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) “repeated failures” to regulate e-cigarettes and crack down on companies that illegally sell products to minors.

Led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the lawmakers sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, urging him to “do everything in his power to right the ship and take meaningful action to correct the persistent failures of FDA guidance and protect young people from lifelong nicotine addiction.

Extremely backward: The FDA is now 16 months past a court-ordered deadline to finish reviewing e-cigarette applications, and lawmakers have criticized the agency for saying it needs another six months to complete its work on e-cigarettes with the most large market share.

An estimated 1 million children may now be at risk of starting to drink before the FDA completes its review, Durbin said.

  • Durbin is the Senate’s leading anti-cigarette advocate and has repeatedly called on federal regulators to do a better job protecting children by immediately removing e-cigarettes and cigarette products from store shelves.
  • “For nearly a decade, the agency has neglected its duty under the law to regulate e-cigarettes, endangering the health of millions of children. Now, after yet another delay in the FDA’s efforts to regulate the e-cigarette market, it is clear to us that the FDA is on the way and lives are at risk,” the lawmakers wrote.

Read more here.


Nearly half of all U.S. adults are unsure whether medical abortion is legal where they live, according to a survey released Wednesday by KFF.

At least 4 in 10 adults — including 41 percent of women of childbearing age — said they were “not sure” whether mifepristone, a medical abortion drug, is legal where they live.

The findings show continued widespread confusion about access to medical abortion, the most common way people end a pregnancy.

The survey was conducted Jan. 17-24, more than six months after the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion in Roe v. Wade.

Many states with strict abortion bans also limit the availability of mifepristone — a drug that blocks hormones needed for pregnancy — either through restrictions on who can prescribe and dispense the pill or through outright bans.

Read more here.


In 2021, the US spent 17.8 percent of GDP on health care, almost double the 9.6 percent average for high-income countries, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report.

Per capita health care spending in the US is three or four times higher than in countries like South Korea, New Zealand and Japan.

The researchers compared data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Health Statistics 2022 database and the Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey 2022.

Preventable mortality: Additionally, the avoidable death rate in the US was 336 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020, while the OECD average was 225.

Their analysis shows that overall health in the US is worse than in other high-income countries. Life expectancy at birth in the US is three years below the OECD average. The US obesity rate is nearly double the OECD average at about 43 percent, compared to the OECD average of 25 percent. The next highest countries include New Zealand (34 percent), Australia (30 percent) and the United Kingdom (28 percent).

Read more here.

GoodRx accused of illegally sharing health data

Telemedicine company GoodRx alleges it shared sensitive personal health information with Google, Facebook and other firms to target ads to consumers, according to a complaint filed by federal regulators on Wednesday.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleges that GoodRx, a company that allows users to compare drug prices and receive coupons, shared sensitive information about users’ prescriptions and health conditions with advertising platforms that allowed them to target ads to users about specific health conditions and medications, despite claims that the company would not.

  • The order, filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC, seeks to prohibit GoodRx from sharing health data with advertisers. It would also require the company to order third parties, such as Google and Facebook, to delete data previously shared with them.
  • In addition to the proposed actions, GoodRx agreed to pay a $1.5 million penalty, according to the FTC. The order is subject to federal court approval.
  • An FTC official said that if companies didn’t pay attention to the rule before, they will now. The official said the order filed against GoodRx would be a sign to the industry that the agency is not taking the issue lightly.

This is the first enforcement action the FTC has taken under its Health Breach Notification Rule, which requires providers of personal health records and their related entities to notify consumers and the FTC when that data is disclosed or acquired without the consumers’ permission.

GoodRX said in a statement that it disagrees with the FTC’s allegations and admits no wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

Read more here.


  • Medicare may test policy of paying less for drugs with accelerated approval (Stat)
  • Vaccine makers keep $1.4 billion in advance payments for canceled Covid vaccines for world’s poor (New York Times)
  • Republicans broke with another historic ally: doctors (Axios)
  • Delivery of weight-loss drug Wegovy is expected to improve in the next few months, company says (NBC News)


  • A bill in Massachusetts would reduce prison time for organ donation. A defender calls the measure “unethical and corrupt”. (
  • Indiana public health program boost clears legislative panel (Washington Times-Herald)
  • Red tide colors Lee County waters again, state health department issues advisory (The News-Press)


Restoring public trust in public health

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. See The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. I’ll see you tomorrow.

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