Conversation Guide: End of Public Health Emergency (PHE)

Woman wearing a face masks shops at pharmacy

On May 11, 2023, the public health emergency (PHE) will expire and many will see changes in COVID-19 healthcare costs, insurance coverage and renewals, and food benefits. These changes are likely to disproportionately impact some refugee, immigrant, and migrant (RIM) communities. 

Confidently answer questions from the community with this conversation guide outlining some of the changes. 

Expand all

Does an end to the PHE mean that COVID-19 is no longer dangerous?

No - COVID-19 is still a dangerous illness, and many people still get seriously ill every day. COVID-19 can also disrupt you and your family’s routines, preventing people from going to work or school.

Public health emergencies allow the government to spend money quickly and develop new programs to support the public's well being. The end of the PHE just means the government has less flexibility to do these things.

What will be different after the end of the PHE?

When the public health emergency ends, many people will see changes in their healthcare costs, insurance coverage and renewals, and food benefits.

How will the end of the PHE change my healthcare costs?

During the Public Health Emergency, COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments were free. After May 11, the cost will depend on your health insurance. Some things will continue to be free, and others will cost money.

In some cases, tests, treatments and vaccines will be free for a few months, because the federal government already purchased them for patients. However, when the government runs out of free supplies, these services will cost money.

Call your insurance provider to discuss costs for specific services.

What should I do to keep my family safe and healthy as healthcare costs increase?

  • Get up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccines before May 11, while they are still free. Being up-to-date means getting both doses of a two-shot vaccine, and then getting any recommended booster shots.

  • Stock up on at-home COVID-19 tests before May 11. People are testing regardless of whether they are vaccinated and regardless of whether they feel sick because it makes our communities safer.

    • Order free COVID-19 tests from the government before May 11. A total of four tests per residential address can be ordered at no cost. Order tests online at, or call 1-800-232-0233 to order tests in more than 150 languages.

    • If you have medical insurance, including Medicaid, you can get free COVID-19 tests at most pharmacies through May 11. Go to your local pharmacy, give them your insurance card, and ask them if COVID-19 tests are covered under your insurance.

  • Look for community health clinics and other healthcare providers that offer free or reduced-cost healthcare services. It is important to stay up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccines, even after May 11.

  • Use routine medical exams as well as any exams related to refugee status (e.g. domestic health assessment) as opportunities to make sure you are up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines and have enough tests at home.

  • Do not delay treatment if you get sick with COVID-19 after May 11. Even if you have to pay for treatment, your healthcare costs will be much higher if you wait too long and require hospitalization.

  • Practicing social distancing, avoiding gatherings with many people, staying home when you are sick, wearing a mask, and washing your hands frequently are other ways to keep yourself and others safe.

How will the end of the PHE affect my insurance coverage and renewals?

During the Public Health Emergency, people who had health insurance through Medicaid were automatically re-enrolled each year. After March 31, people will need to prove they are eligible for Medicaid every year to keep using Medicaid health insurance.

If you do not renew your eligibility with your public benefits provider in time, you will lose your health insurance coverage. 

How can I keep my family safe and healthy if I am on Medicaid?

It is important to keep your health insurance coverage so you can pay for healthcare if you get sick. Make sure your local public benefits agency has your most up-to-date contact information including your correct address and phone number. Pay attention to any mail or messages you receive from the local government agency that manages Medicaid. If you receive a notice, act on it right away.

How will the end of the PHE affect my food benefits?

If you use SNAP, you may receive less money for food from the government. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a government program that helps people buy food. During the Public Health Emergency, the government gave these families extra food money. Some people have already stopped receiving this extra money, depending on where they live. By the end of March 2023, all families will stop receiving extra money.

How can I keep my family safe and healthy after my food benefits change?

There are many options for people who need help paying for food:

  • Contact your local food bank by visiting and entering your zip code

  • Some states have programs that let you buy more fresh fruits and vegetables with your SNAP benefits. Visit for more information. 

  • Ask your child’s school if there are free and reduced-price meals available.

  • Call 2-1-1, or 1-866-3-HUNGRY, or ask your resettlement case manager about other food resources.