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Arkansas’ Hutchinson, other GOP governors ask Biden to end public health emergency

By: - December 20, 2022 10:29 am
A model of COVID-19, known as coronavirus.(Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)

A model of COVID-19, known as coronavirus.(Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and 24 other Republican governors sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Monday asking him to end the national public health emergency declared at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While the virus will be with us for some time, the emergency phase of the pandemic is behind us,” the governors wrote in asking the administration to end the public health emergency in April.

The health emergency was extended last year until Jan. 11, 2023, but the governors wrote that they believe Biden will extend it another 90 days until April.

Their letter asks that it be the final extension.

“It is time we move on from the pandemic and get back to life as normal,” the letter states.

The U.S. Senate voted 61-37 in November to terminate the public health emergency, but the resolution is awaiting House action. Arkansas Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton voted for the measure.

The governors cite Medicaid costs as a primary reasons for ending the public health emergency.



“The PHE is negatively affecting states, primarily by artificially growing our population covered under Medicaid (both traditional and expanded populations), regardless of whether individuals continue to be eligible under the program,” the governors wrote.

Although the federal government has increased Medicaid funding to states, higher numbers of recipients have forced states to increase their matching share of the cost, the letter says.

“This is costing states hundreds of millions of dollars,” the letter says, noting that since 2020 states have added 20 million people to the Medicaid rolls, an increase of 30%.

“We urge you to end the national emergency and the PHE in April and provide states notice of those intentions well in advance to allow us to adequately plan for the future,” the governors wrote.

Arkansas officials have already begun preparing to remove nearly 400,000 individuals from state Medicaid rolls when the emergency officially ends.

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Sonny Albarado
Sonny Albarado

In his 50-year career, Sonny Albarado has been an investigations editor, a business editor, a city editor, an environmental reporter and a government reporter at newspapers in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana. Most recently, he retired from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette after serving as projects editor for 12 ½ years. He got his start in journalism as editor of the Nicholls Worth, the student newspaper at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1973. Nicholls awarded him an honorary Doctor of Letters in 2014.