$4.8B to COVID-19 Testing Reimbursement for the Uninsured


HHS will designate $4.8B from the American Rescue Plan to COVID-19 testing reimbursement under the HRSA COVID-19 Uninsured Program.

Under the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), HHS announced it will allocate $4.8 billion to COVID-19 testing reimbursement for the uninsured as part of the American Rescue Plan.

There are currently approximately 29 million uninsured people in the US, HHS reported in the announcement.

“As we vaccinate the country, let’s continue taking the preventive measures necessary to keep the virus under control and prevent it from spreading. Testing remains critical and now it’s available at no cost to those who need it,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a May 25th press release.

“This funding will help ensure everyone has access to testing regardless of whether they have health insurance.”

Providers can submit requests for reimbursement through the HRSA COVID-19 Uninsured Program and receive payments at the national Medicare rates. Under this program, patients can be tested, treated, and vaccinated, regardless of insurance or immigration status.

The recently announced funding is strictly dedicated to COVID-19 testing. As of May 2021, the program has reimbursed $85 million for vaccinations of the uninsured and $2.5 billion for COVID-19 treatment of the uninsured, according to the press release. The program had previously issued almost $4 billion in reimbursements for testing.

“Focusing on the underserved and eliminating health access barriers for vulnerable communities is a core part of our mission,” explained Acting HRSA Administrator Diana Espinosa in the press release. “To truly return to normal after the pandemic, we must continue to test, treat and vaccinate everyone, regardless of insurance or immigration status.”

On May 3rd, HHS launched the COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund (CAF), aimed at reimbursing providers who administer vaccines to underinsured patients. The CAF “will cover the costs of administering COVID-19 vaccines to patients whose health insurance doesn’t cover vaccine administration fees, or does but typically has patient cost-sharing,” HRSA’s website states.

Both programs have the same goal: removing roadblocks to vaccinations and testing so that providers are adequately compensated while underinsured and uninsured patients receive care for COVID-19 without additional financial burdens.

Additional government assistance has been put in place over the past year and a half to encourage vaccinations, testing, and access to care during the pandemic. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act mandates that certain employers must give employees paid sick leave for medical issues surrounding COVID-19, including if an employee has to quarantine and cannot work, according to the US Department of Labor.

In addition, under the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, enacted in April 2020, $11 billion was allocated to “states, localities, territories and tribes to develop, purchase, administer, process and analyze COVID-19 tests, scale-up laboratory capacity, trace contacts and support employer testing,” the American Medical Association stated. Furthermore, in early May the HRSA distributed nearly $1 billion from the American Rescue Plan to assist rural health providers with increasing testing and vaccinations while improving vaccine confidence.

The latest funding announcement provides additional relief for both patients and providers, as both parties struggle with the repercussions of COVID-19. Nevertheless, the pandemic continues to expose significant dangers for uninsured, underinsured, and underserved communities in particular.

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