Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced legislation yesterday to increase coverage for uninsured Americans receiving Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related treatment and vaccines through Medicaid. The Stronger Medicaid Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Act directly responds to the increased need for health care resulting from the public health and economic crisis. The legislation builds on The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provided Medicaid coverage for COVID-19 testing, and would allow Medicaid programs to pay for treatment, hospitalization, drugs, and vaccines for individuals with COVID-19 who are uninsured.
“For many Americans, losing a job also means losing their health insurance. We cannot let millions of Americans lose access to care during the worst public health crisis in a century due to job loss or other circumstances that are out of their control,” said Bennet. “Our legislation would ensure these families and individuals who have experienced a job loss during the pandemic are able to receive the COVID-19 treatment they need by bolstering Medicaid coverage for the uninsured.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented health and financial crisis, which has exacerbated existing problems impacting Americans’ ability to access affordable health care services. This is especially true for those who are currently uninsured,” said Shaheen. “This bill would allow Medicaid to cover COVID-19 treatment costs for the uninsured and ensure that cost is not a barrier to care for those who are fighting this devastating virus. The bill gives states an incentive to take up this option by providing federal funding to reimburse states for the cost of this COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured. Combating this crisis requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, which is precisely why this legislation is urgently needed. No one should be denied lifesaving care because they cannot afford it.”
“The coronavirus pandemic has caused catastrophic damage to our nation’s public health and economy,” said Hirono. “This legislation will make sure that everyone in America—regardless of their immigration status, employment status, or insurance status—has access to COVID-19 testing and treatment, because we all benefit when our community is healthy.”
“Let’s be clear: no one should be prevented from COVID-19 treatment simply because they are uninsured,” said Harris. “This virus impacts everyone and it does not care about your race, your gender, your age, your immigration status, or your health insurance status. I’m proud join my colleagues in introducing the Stronger Medicaid Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Act– this critical legislation will allow Medicaid to provide coverage for COVID-19-related treatment to any uninsured individuals.”
“Every American deserves a vaccine or treatment against COVID-19, regardless of cost,” said Blumenthal. “As more Americans are unemployed, and therefore uninsured, we must assure that no one is left behind. It’s vital to all of our health.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that America's health care system is dangerously unprepared for a public health crisis. Times like these spotlights the need to strengthen the social safety net, including Medicaid,” said Heidi Haines, Director of Advocacy, The Arc of Colorado. “The Arc of Colorado applauds Senator Bennet for introducing The Stronger Medicaid Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Act to ensure coverage for treatment and vaccines related to COVID-19 to any individual, regardless of whether they have health insurance."
“The Colorado Safety Net Collaborative is a collection of health centers who serve people in a safe and welcoming way. Our collaborative specializes in caring for those that are uninsured, under-insured and on Medicaid with health care and other services that help people get and stay healthy,” said Phyllis Albritton, Managing Consultant, Colorado Safety Net Collaborative. “Our services also reduce pressure on Colorado’s hospitals especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic. We support Senator Bennet's ‘‘Stronger Medicaid Response to the COVID–19 Pandemic Act’’ because so many of the people we serve are essential workers who do not have the luxury of working from home and are serving America at a time when they are most needed. They need to get services both to prevent them getting COVID-19 and when they have the unfortunate experience of getting it because they are at higher risk. Senator Bennet's efforts will make sure that these essential workers will be able to get the COVID care they need.”
Over 71 million individuals are enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, providing essential coverage of health care services, like primary and preventive care, mental and behavioral health, and chronic illness treatment. Researchers estimate that more than 10 million people will lose employer-sponsored health insurance as a result of pandemic-related job loss in their household between April and December 2020. Just in the first three months of the pandemic, 5.4 million laid-off workers became uninsured.
The Stronger Medicaid Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Act is supported by The Arc of the United States, Epilepsy Foundation, National Hispanic Medical Association, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Families USA, Colorado Safety Net Collaborative, The Arc of Colorado, National Immigration Law Center, National Health Law Program, and People’s Health Clinic.