As some medical experts warn that another COVID-19 surge could be on the way, people are claiming online that Americans without health insurance no longer have access to some free COVID-19 testing and treatment options.
An estimated 31 million people in the United States were uninsured in the first six months of 2021.
A headline from WebMD says those who are uninsured could pay nearly $200 for COVID-19 tests. Adam Gaffney, M.D., who is a critical care doctor and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, said in a tweet on March 22 that COVID-19 care is being rationed “by ability to pay.”
According to Gaffney, federal coverage for COVID-19 treatment and testing for uninsured Americans has already ended.
Has federal coverage for COVID-19 treatment and testing for uninsured Americans ended?
- The White House
- U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
- Kimberly Gorode, Quest Diagnostics spokesperson
- Kaiser Family Foundation, nonprofit focused on U.S. health issues
- National Association of Chain Drugstores
Yes, federal coverage of COVID-19 testing and treatment for uninsured Americans has ended.
WHAT WE FOUND
Since March 2020, the federal government has allotted trillions of dollars to fund the nation’s coronavirus response through the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan. But the White House says that money is running out.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on March 9 that additional COVID-19 funding would not be included in the 2022 $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill, blaming Republican resistance. That legislation was recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden.
Pelosi said it was “heartbreaking” to remove COVID-19 funding from the bill. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), along with 35 other Senate Republicans, wrote in a letter to the Biden administration on March 2 that “it is not yet clear why additional funding is needed.”
Without renewed funding, a program reimbursing doctors and other medical providers for COVID-19 tests and treatments for uninsured people was forced to end in late March, the Biden administration said.
On its website, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), says its COVID-19 Uninsured Program (UIP) stopped accepting claims for testing and treatment as of March 22 “due to a lack of sufficient funds.”
Quest Diagnostics, a medical lab company, has begun notifying its clients and partners that it is no longer expecting to be reimbursed for rapid and PCR testing through the program “unless additional funding is allocated,” spokesperson Kimberly Gorode told VERIFY. Patients enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid or a private health insurance plan are not affected right now. The cost of PCR testing now ranges from $70 to $125 for uninsured patients depending on the type of test and the way it's ordered, according to Gorode.
In a letter sent to the Biden administration on March 17, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores said the ability for health care providers, including pharmacies, to provide access to care for their patients is “in imminent jeopardy.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said the cost of PCR testing for uninsured patients through Quest Diagnostics is $125. It has been updated to reflect that the cost of testing ranges from $70 to $125.