By: Madeline Ottilie
A federal COVID-19 program that pays for testing, treatment and vaccines for individuals without health insurance is coming to an end. The White House said it has run out of money to sustain it.
After Tuesday night, health providers will no longer be able to claim reimbursements after testing or treating someone for COVID-19 who does not have health insurance. Reimbursement claims for vaccines under the program will end in early April.
It comes after Congress failed to reach an agreement on new COVID relief funding in a broad budget bill President Joe Biden signed last week.
Hamilton County Commission President Stephanie Summerow Dumas said there are various local safeguards to ensure people without health insurance can still receive COVID-19 care. The county’s ‘Test and Protect’ program, for example, provides free COVID-19 testing to those who live and work in Hamilton County. The county has spent millions of dollars on the program with The Health Collaborative and has administered more than half a million tests.
“There are so many places that are providing testing and vaccines, you know, pharmacies, other small health centers,” Dumas said. “If you look at the map of where testing is being done, it’s all over the place.”
Individuals can also still order free at-home tests from the federal government here.
Dumas said there are other funding sources in Hamilton County to assist people with COVID-19 treatment if they do not have health insurance.
Medical providers often rely on federal programs before turning to local ones, said Tiffany Mattingly, Vice President, Clinical Strategies at The Health Collaborative. If federal programs dry up, she said it could put new strain on local resources.
“Many of those programs had a specific amount of dollars that they expected to last them a certain period of time,” Mattingly said. “And those dollars may be utilized quicker now that you can’t build up to that intermediary program.”
Mattingly said local public health departments will still provide vaccines at no cost. She recommends anyone without health insurance search for federally qualified health centers on this website when looking for treatment.
The White House says the Uninsured Program is just one virus-related program that will be scaled back due to a lack of new funding. In a statement, the White House said the federal government has no more funding for additional monoclonal antibody treatments and will cut state allocations by more than 30%. The statement also says “the federal government does not have adequate resources to purchase enough booster vaccine doses for all Americans, if additional doses are needed.”
Reposted with permission from WCPO 9 Cincinnati