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U.S. $2 trillion coronavirus relief package stops short of covering uninsured

Antonita Madonna  Thomson Reuters Accelus Regulatory Intelligence

Antonita Madonna  Thomson Reuters Accelus Regulatory Intelligence

The U.S. Congress’ $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed by the Senate late Wednesday will require private insurance plans to cover COVID-19 treatment and a potential vaccine in future at no cost, but stopped short of providing or expanding health insurance to the uninsured who fail to qualify through other government-aided programs.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, pending a vote at the House of Representatives in debate to begin on Friday, contains fiscal stimulus to boost the economy and help for people worst affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The bill would provide about $100 billion for hospitals and about $250 billion to expand unemployment insurance.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had earlier proposed incorporating a clause in the stimulus package that would eliminate cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment for every individual, including the uninsured, and also cover coronavirus vaccines for all in future. Her proposal would also provide incentives for more states to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income individuals. But on Thursday Pelosi made clear her efforts were focused on swiftly passing the Senate measure.

During a press briefing on Thursday, President Donald Trump said White House officials were meeting with health insurance officials during the day. “We’re going to take care of our people,” he said, adding they were “starting off by sending big checks” to individuals and families – a provision included in the relief package.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, a group of health insurers, said it would continue to work with policymakers on additional steps to ensure more individuals get coverage and are able to afford existing coverage and premiums. They welcomed the stimulus package for the healthcare industry and businesses hit by losses from unexpected closures due to the respiratory virus.

“We call on Congress to swiftly take additional action to secure and stabilize coverage for families, businesses, and workers,” Matt Eyles, AHIP’s Chief Executive said.

Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said lawmakers will need to do “substantially more in subsequent bills” to address urgent needs in areas like health coverage for struggling families. Such steps are now essential to help cover the uninsured through Medicaid or on the healthcare exchanges and those who “still slip through the crack.”

To keep up-dated on the latest news and information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic impact, and the government’s response, at Thomson Reuters’ COVID-19 Resource Center, and you can follow or the Reuters App.