Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, and President Trump signed a $2 trillion federal stimulus package that provides much needed emergency help to the health system, state and local governments, and the many Americans who are suddenly unemployed, but much more is needed to fully address the health problems presented by the pandemic. Congress should immediately focus on a follow-up package, to ensure that everyone can get the testing and treatment they need, as part of the investments and policies to ultimately contain the coronavirus.
Below are some of the specifics of the work left to do in a future federal package:
STATE AID: State budgets will be hit hard, and without additional assistance will be forced to cut health and human services at the very time they are most needed. Any positive economic impact of a stimulus package could be overcome by severe cuts if no further additional assistance is provided to states.
AFFORDABILITY ASSISTANCE: Millions will lose not just hours, income, and employment, but coverage as well, and we need to increase affordability assistance for those who will now have to purchase insurance as individuals. The more we can keep people covered, including for the testing and treatment of COVID-19, the more effective our public health efforts will be to get out of this emergency.
COST-SHARING: The state and federal efforts to prevent cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing should be followed up with similar assurances with regard to treatment. We should not let financial barriers discourage people from getting tested and treated. We don’t want the potential of a hospital bill of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars be a barrier to a patient, or an unpaid burden on a provider.
SURPRISE BILLING: Especially in this crisis, no one should get needed care and then face an unexpected out-of-network medical bill. Surprise bills were never appropriate, but as our health system adds capacity they are more likely, and even more unjust.
DO NO HARM: Any new federal response should put off pending proposals that threaten to destabilize the health system when we are asking so much of it already. At this time, we must delay, or take off the table entirely, proposals that would threaten Medicaid cuts to states. We need to suspend the public charge and work reporting regulations that discourage people from getting the testing and treatment they need and make it that much harder to contain the coronavirus. In order to ensure more Americans are not at risk of losing coverage, President Trump and the Department of Justice should immediately withdraw from the lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
INCLUSIVITY: The health and economic impacts of COVID-19 do not discriminate based on immigration status, and our federal assistance should not either. Excluding our immigrant family members, friends, and neighbors from federal aid doesn’t just hurt them, but the public health and economic recovery goals to get everyone out of this emergency.