Home Health COVID coverage for everyone is drying up, even if hospital costs are...

COVID coverage for everyone is drying up, even if hospital costs are rising Chicago News


Room empty at COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New York, January 3, 2022 (AP Photo / Steven Senne, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) – For the first time, the U.S. has come close to providing medical care to everyone during a coronavirus pandemic, but only for one disease, COVID-19.

Now things are back to the way they were, as federal money to help the uninsured from COVID is drying up, creating a potential barrier to timely access.

But the virus is not contained, even if it is better controlled. And hospitals and clinics that provide security see dramatically higher costs for salaries and other major operating costs. They fear they will not be ready if there is another surge and it does not stop.

“We haven’t denied anyone yet,” said Dr. Mark Loffman, chairman of family and community medicine in Cook County, Chicago. “But I think it’s only a matter of time … People don’t get cancer or blood pressure treatment every day in America because they can’t afford it.”

The $ 20 billion state-owned COVID program covered the cost of testing, treatment, and vaccines for uninsured people. But it was closed. COVID-19 Medicaid’s special coverage for the uninsured in more than a dozen states is also likely to face up in recent months.

At Parkland Health, a front-line hospital system in Dallas, Dr. Fred Sears questions the logic of withdrawing federal dollars at a time when health officials have unveiled a new “test for treatment” strategy. People with COVID-19 can now take antiviral pills at home, hopefully avoiding hospitalization. An example is Vice President Kamala Harris, who recently gave a positive result but is again working in the White House.

“The test for treatment will be very difficult for uninsured people,” said Tseriz, president and CEO of the system. “If it’s a change of strategy on a large scale and it happens without funding, people will be reluctant to accept it.”

Officials from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services say new antiviral drugs, such as Paxlovid, are paid for by taxpayers and should be free for patients, even the uninsured.

But they recognize that some uninsured people cannot afford the medical advice needed to get a prescription. “We hear from state and local partners that the lack of funding for the Uninsured program creates problems for people with access to medicines,” said Dr. Meg Sullivan, chief physician of the HHS Preparedness and Response Division.

The nation used to be a penny on a pandemic.

“We lack universal health coverage in the U.S., but for a while we had universal coverage of COVID,” said Larry Levitt, a health policy expert from the Kaiser Family’s nonpartisan foundation. “It was unusual.”

Recently, the White House’s urgent request for $ 22.5 billion for COVID priorities was not advanced in Congress. Even the abbreviated version was stuck. Part of the Biden administration’s request provides $ 1.5 billion to replenish an uninsured program that paid bills for testing, treatment, and vaccines for uninsured patients. Now the program has stopped accepting claims due to lack of money.

This program along with the lesser known version of Medicaid for the states has allowed thousands of uninsured people to get help without worrying about costs. Bipartisan support has given way as Republicans in Congress raise questions about the cost of a pandemic.

The uninsured program is managed by the Administration of Health Resources and Services, HHS. Healthcare professionals who see uninsured people can submit their bills for compensation. Over the past two years, more than 50,000 hospitals, clinics and medical practices have received payments. Officials say they could re-enable the program if Congress releases more money.

The Medicaid coverage option began under the Trump administration as a way to help states pay for testing uninsured people. President Joe Biden’s coronavirus bill also expanded it to include treatment and vaccines. It’s like a limited insurance policy from COVID. The coating cannot be used for other services, such as knee replacement. The federal government pays 100% of the cost.

Fifteen states, from deep blue California to bright red South Carolina, have taken advantage of this option, as well as three U.S. territories. It will end as soon as the federal coronavirus emergency, which is currently projected later this year, is over.

New Hampshire Director of Medicaid Henry Lipman said the coverage option allowed his state to enroll about 9,500 people for COVID treatment, which includes new antiviral drugs that can be taken at home.

“It’s really a safety net for people who don’t have access to insurance,” Lipman said. “This is a limited situation, but in a pandemic it is good support. With such a contagious disease, it makes a lot of sense. ”

As COVID cases are now relatively low, the demand for testing, treatment and vaccination is declining. But the urgency felt by hospitals and other health care providers is driven by their own incomes.

In Missouri, Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare CEO Craig Thompson is concerned that federal funding will evaporate as operating costs rise. Staff received an increase, drug costs increased by 20% and supply costs by 12%.

“Now we’ve come out of this pandemic … into probably the highest inflationary environment I’ve seen in my career,” Thompson said. The health care system serves mostly the countryside between Kansas City and Springfield.

In Kentucky, the Louisville Family Health Center closed the testing service for uninsured people as soon as federal funds dried up. The private company they worked with planned to charge $ 65 per test.

Now everything is manageable because there is little demand, said spokeswoman Melissa Mater, “but if we get another omicron, it will be very difficult.”

Florian Debra McCoski-Raisert is uninsured and lost her older brother from COVID-19 in the first wave two years ago. In one of their last conversations, he made her promise not to pick up the virus.

McCoskey-Reisert, who lives north of Tampa, has so far managed to escape the disease. But she is overshadowed by fear of what might happen if she or her husband becomes infected.

“If any of us get COVID, we don’t have the ability to pay,” she said. “It will probably bankrupt us if we don’t find another help.”

Reducing the number of uninsured mirrors some of the bigger problems with the U.S. health care system, Chicago hospital doctor Loffman said.

“Honestly, we as a society care about the uninsured from COVID because it affects us,” he said. “You know, a closed community doesn’t protect against the virus … that’s the disgusting truth that our altruism around it was really motivated.”


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