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Drying federal funds place uninsured Americans under higher risk of COVID

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This picture taken on November 29, 2021 shows people waiting in line at a walk-up vaccination site in Washington, DC. (File photo by AFP)

Tens of millions of uninsured Americans have come under higher risk of disease as the government runs out of funds to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Under a federal program launched by the Trump administration, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and doctors were reimbursed for providing medical treatment for all COVID patients; however, insufficient federal funding forced health providers to stop testing and treating uninsured Americans for COVID last week, CNN reported on Saturday.

Free vaccinations, also, were scheduled to stop next week, putting added pressure on some 31 million uninsured Americans who might have to pay for the free service from then on.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration asked Congress for $1.5 billion to continue providing free services for the uninsured.

US manufacturers representing health providers were also lobbying in Congress to renew the program. The US firms were warning that a recent surge of the highly contagious BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron variant in Europe and Asia requires the US  federal government to take precautionary measures and continue its supportive programs to prevent another surge in the United States until the complete eradication of the COVID pandemic.

According to government officials, as of early March, nearly $19 billion was reimbursed to more than 50,000 providers of which about $11.6 billion went for testing, about $5.9 billion for treatment and less than $1.7 billion for vaccinations.

Martin Kramer, a spokesman for the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, warned that ending the government's COVID program for the uninsured would further exacerbate medical services inequality and discrimination among social groups in the United States.

"Costs for these services can really add up for someone without insurance," he warned, adding, having no funding for the uninsured "will increase the disparity in access to critically needed health care and will put additional burdens on safety net providers."


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