Organizations implore the US Senate to pass the US House-approved coronavirus bill as soon as possible and take additional critical steps. These organizations represent millions of individuals diagnosed with serious health conditions who are concerned for their safety. In a letter to the US Senate, the organizations emphasize the importance of enacting the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201).
Public health experts warn that individuals with serious, chronic conditions face heightened risk of sickness and death if infected with the novel coronavirus. For these individuals, assurances that the vast majority of healthy adults will survive infection provide little comfort. It's absolutely critical that lawmakers act with urgency to protect the nation's most vulnerable.
HR 6201 contains important provisions that expand the ability of individuals to get tested for COVID-19 and encourage social distancing that could reduce transmission. These steps include:
• Extending no cost coronavirus testing to all individuals, regardless of insurance type or status.
• Increasing federal support for Medicaid spending to ease financial strain on state budgets during this crisis.
• Providing opportunities for paid time off to allow some symptomatic workers to stay home without suffering financially.
• Suspending work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in order to facilitate social distancing and reflect economic realities during this crisis.
Separately, patient organizations urge lawmakers to quickly take these additional, vital steps in subsequent legislation:
• Ensure individuals have access to COVID-19 treatment at no or low out-of-pocket costs.
• Expand the number of workers eligible for paid and protected leave during the pandemic.
• Promote health coverage through expedited Medicaid enrollment and initiate a special open enrollment period for Affordable Care Act exchange coverage.
• Expand the availability of telemedicine services for those without COVID-19 symptoms to facilitate social distancing and prevent disruption of necessary care.
• Require all health insurers to allow individuals to follow CDC recommendations and obtain backup supplies of essential medicines and medical products.
Patient organizations also urged the administration to immediately repeal the block grant policy issued on January 30, 2020 which encourages states to cap their Medicaid spending. The letter endorsed by the organizations suggests that states that enacts these caps risk serious financial limitations that could prevent addressing this pandemic effectively.
Duriel I. Hardy, MD, and Sona Narula, MD
Donna Stephenson, MD
Donna Stephenson, MD