Uninsured Americans Can No Longer Get a Free Covid-19 Lab Test - Rolling Stone
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Don’t Have Insurance? Kiss That Free Covid Lab Test Goodbye

As Covid aid languishes in Congress, the government can no longer afford to reimburse testing providers, and funds for vaccines will likely be axed next

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People lined up for Covid tests in Chicago, in Dec. 2021.

Nam Y. Huh/AP Photo

As a federal funding bill languishes in Congress, money to reimburse the cost of coronavirus lab tests for uninsured people officially ran out Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. 

The Health Resources and Services Administration was forced to shut down its Uninsured Program because Congress has yet to act on the White House’s request for $22.5 billion more in Covid funding. While the proposed funding would likely pass the House of Representatives, it would need at least 60 votes in the Senate, meaning at least 10 Republicans would have to join the 50 Democrats.

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

The Uninsured Program has been in place since the Trump administration and it has reimbursed hospitals, clinics, doctors, and other providers offering Covid care to 28 million Americans without insurance. And while the lack of free Covid testing is the first aspect of the program to go, Kramer warned that it won’t be the last. If things stay as they are, after April 5 the Uninsured Program will no longer be able to accept claims for vaccine-related costs.

The Biden administration previously warned that losing free Covid tests for the uninsured was one of several major problems that could arise if Congress failed to pass a new aid package. Other potential ripple effects include the government’s inability to purchase booster vaccines, Covid treatments, and preventative care for the immunocompromised, as well as being able to properly monitor and identify emerging variants. This comes as a new strain of the virus is moving across the U.S., threatening yet another surge in cases. 

As for the stalemate over the additional Covid funding, Democrats tried to include the money in a recent $1.5 trillion federal spending bill. But that money was dropped after Dem members bristled at other cuts their party leaders negotiated with Republicans in order to pay for the Covid aid. If Congress wants to pass separate Covid aid funding, it’ll need the support of Republicans in the Senate, who have so far said Democrats will have to pay for it using existing funds and other savings accrued since the start of the pandemic.

In This Article: covid-19

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