COVID-19 Testing & Treatment Will No Longer Be Free As Uninsured Program Runs Out of Money

Paramedic wearing personal protective equipment PPE holding folder standing in front of ICU hospital isolation rt-PCR drive thru testing site, COVID-19 pandemic outbreak crisis, worried exhausted staff.
Plyushkin / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Without further funding approved by Congress, providers will no longer be able to submit claims for testing, treating and vaccinating the uninsured, according to a White House fact sheet.

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“The Administration has been clear that we need Congress to provide additional resources, including $22.5 billion in immediate emergency funding. Inaction will set us back in this fight, leave us less prepared, and cost us more lives,” the fact sheet reads.

The Uninsured Program stopped accepting new claims for testing and treatment due to insufficient funds on March 22, and on April 5, it will also stop accepting vaccination claims due to a lack of funds.

“The lack of funding for COVID-19 needs is having real consequences,” Martin Kramer, a spokesman for the Health Resources and Services Administration, said in a statement to the Seattle Times. “We have begun an orderly shutdown of the program.”

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In turn,  providers will be forced to either absorb the cost or turn away people who are uninsured, increasing the disparity in access to critically needed health care and putting additional burdens on safety net providers.

The White House added that it will also be unable to purchase additional life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments and will run out of supply to send to states as soon as late May.

“COVID is a highly infectious disease, so we want people who think they might be sick to get tested and treated, not only for their health but for the community as well,” Larry Levitt, a health policy expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, told The Seattle Times.  “If uninsured people now hesitate to get care because of the cost, we’ll see more cases and greater inequity.”

Meanwhile, some Republicans are pressing the Biden Administration for details on how it has spent funds from Democrats’ partisan $1.9 trillion spending bill passed last year.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS), called for unspent funding from that bill to be used for current COVID-19-related priorities.

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“Some of it was used to deal with problems at the border, but most of it was used for the purpose. What we’d like to know is what happened to the other money? And how much of it is still left? And is there enough of it still left to pay to recharge the accounts that really related to COVID and people’s health expenses?” Blunt said in a statement. “So, again, my advice to the administration is be totally transparent with where that $1.9 trillion went. Let’s see what’s left and let’s see if we couldn’t find out of what’s left some money to fully pay for whatever the administration would like to do next to add to the accounts that I personally believe need to be added to, but I don’t think we need to do it as an emergency.”

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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