Many uninsured people could lose access to free COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines as federal funding runs out

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With a deadlock in Congress over additional emergency funding for COVID-19, uninsured people could lose access to free testing and treatment services, a new KFF brief explains.

For people without health insurance, the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Uninsured COVID-19 Program has reimbursed hospitals, doctors and other providers for the COVID-19 care and services they provide to people. uninsured. However, with federal funds running out, the program is no longer accepting new requests for testing and treatment services and will stop accepting requests for vaccine administration on April 5.

Many uninsured people would likely have to pay out of pocket for testing and some treatment services or rely on safety net providers absorbing those extra costs with no way to get reimbursed. As long as supplies remain available, vaccines would continue to be paid for by the federal government and people could not be billed, but vaccine providers would not be paid to administer vaccines to uninsured people and could restrict the access. This could exacerbate existing racial and ethnic disparities, as people of color are more likely than their white counterparts to be uninsured and face other potential barriers to accessing care.

The brief also describes how the federal government used previously authorized funds to purchase COVID-19 tests, drugs and vaccines, and the implications for efforts to ensure equitable access and continued availability of these resources as that funding is running out.

For people with health coverage, including Medicare and Medicaid, existing rules and protections will ensure they continue to have access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines, although some limits on sharing costs will end when the ongoing federal COVID-19 public health emergency ends. If the federal government is no longer able to pre-purchase tests, treatment drugs and vaccines, supplies could run out if and when the next wave of COVID-19 hits and demand increases.

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