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Uninsured? The U.S. is no longer providing free COVID tests and treatments

Funding for COVID relief is running out. Will you have to pay for COVID-related expenses in the future?

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Dakota Sliva administers a COVID-19 test to a patient.

Dakota Sliva administers a COVID-19 test to a patient as University of Utah Health’s Wellness Bus visits the Sorenson Multicultural Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020.

Yukai Peng, Deseret News

On March 22, the Health Resources & Services Administration COVID-19 Uninsured Program — which reimburses clinics and hospitals around the U.S. for COVID expenses —stopped accepting claims for testing and treatment due to a lack of funding.

  • Just about two weeks later, the organization will also stop taking vaccine claims.

Will COVID-related services be offered for free?

Two years into the pandemic, federal funding for COVID relief is running dry.

  • “Some clinics have already started to turn away people without insurance who come to get tested and can’t afford to pay for it,” according to NPR.
  • When funding for vaccines run out, they will still be free for now, “but the costs of administering them will no longer be billed to the federal program,” according to NPR.

Who will have to pay for COVID tests?

Dr. David Zaas — the head of clinical care for the Medical University of South Carolina’s network of 14 safety-net hospitals, which primarily serve low-income populations, according to PBS — said his hospital won’t turn away uninsured patients.

However, his hospital will continue to treat patients using funds “from the limited margin that hospitals generate to reinvest in our people and our programs and our facilities,” according to NPR.

Why Congress rejected a $22.5 billion COVID bill

As covered in previous reporting, the Biden administration has asked Congress for $22.5 billion more in pandemic funding, which Congress denied.

  • In response, the White House released a statement listing the consequences that come with a lack of funding for the future of COVID-19 relief.

According to the White House, lack of COVID funding could result in:

  • Inability to provide free vaccines, boosters, tests, and treatment to providers that serve the uninsured
  • Ending the purchase of monoclonal antibody treatments
  • Decrease research into advanced vaccines and treatments that could help defend against future outbreaks and variants