Forth Federal COVID-19 Relief Bill Passes, But More Help Needed for CA to Prevent Cuts and Fills Major Gaps in Health Systems

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a fourth federal COVID-19 relief package. This act will augment funding established in the CARES Act, passed on March 27th. 
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For Immediate Release: Thursday, April 23, 2020

CONTACT:
Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)
Rachel Linn Gish, director of communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)

FOURTH FEDERAL COVID-19 RELIEF BILL PASSES, BUT MORE HELP NEEDED FOR CA TO PREVENT CUTS AND FILL MAJOR GAPS IN HEALTH SYSTEM

California Health and Community Advocates Urge Congress to Take Additional Action on State Relief, As Well As Other Investments and Patient Protections

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a fourth federal COVID-19 relief package. This act will augment funding established in the CARES Act, passed on March 27th. While this relief will help many Americans facing health and economic shortfalls during the COVID-19 pandemic, major gaps remain in our system that must be addressed to help states and individuals fully respond to the economic and public health crisis caused by the coronavirus.

Health Access, along with a coalition of over 50 organizations, recently sent a letter to California Congressional leaders urging specific patient protections and health investments to provide relief to Californians and our health care system.

“We appreciate the actions Congress has taken to date to help struggling Californians and our economy stay afloat during this COVID-19 crisis, but more help is needed to support the health of states and individual families. Congress needs to immediately get back to work to fill gaps in our health care system that further stymie our recovery efforts – both for our public health and our economy,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access, the statewide health care advocacy coalition. “We urge congressional leaders to come back to the table to craft additional legislation that ensures everyone – regardless of health insurance or immigration status – can get the testing and treatment they need without worry of financial hardship. We will not be able to together come out of this pandemic unless we all have equal access to treatment and care.”

Below are comments on some of the specifics of the work left to do in a future federal package from Wright:

STATE AID: “Every state, including California, desperately needs federal aid to prevent massive cuts to core services, from health to education and more. It’s troublesome that state aid wasn’t in this package, and that any Senator of any state would suggest economically devastating bankruptcy instead. All the money to try to prevent bankruptcies in the private sector would be wasted if that economic stimulus was overwhelmed by a rash of cuts, layoffs, and closed services by states and local government. State budgets will be hit hard with lost tax revenues, and without significant additional assistance will be forced to cut health and human services at the very time they are most needed. California did the right thing and built a strong budget reserve, but even our state will need significant help from the federal government, as states have needed in past economic downturns.”

AFFORDABILITY ASSISTANCE: “The cost of purchasing health care is still out of reach for many, which is now other further exacerbated with the loss of jobs and income for millions of Californians. Lowering the cost of premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs will ensure more people are covered, getting the care and treatment they need when they need it. It’s more vital than ever that every Californian have access to affordable, preventative coverage in order to remain healthy or recover fully from a COVID-19 diagnosis.”

TESTING AND TREATMENT: “Congress should codify efforts to ensure everyone can get COVID-19 testing and treatment without cost-sharing, without regard to insurance status. We should not let financial barriers discourage people from getting tested and treated, particularly for those who do not seek care due to cost concerns. 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: “Surprise bills were never appropriate, but as our health system adds capacity they are more likely, and even more unjust. Especially in this crisis, no one should get needed care and then face an unexpected out-of-network medical bill. Congress has made positive strides towards a deal and we urge continued negotiation to prevent these at the national level as soon as possible.”

DO NO HARM: “The next relief bill should stop the Trump Administration from its continued assault on Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, at the time when these systems are needed more than ever. The federal government must pull its administrative proposals that threaten Medicaid cuts to states and President Trump and the Department of Justice should immediately withdraw from the lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The Administration should also immediately suspend the public charge and other requirements that discourage people from getting the testing and treatment they need through Medicaid and make it that much harder to contain the coronavirus.”

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.”

Additional resources:

CA Coalition Letter to Congress

Health Access Factsheet: State & Federal Responses to COVID-19