Mar 23, 2022 - Health

COVID testing and treatment for uninsured ends

Illustration of an at-home COVID swab casting a shadow in the shape of a question mark.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The congressional standoff over additional COVID-19 funding is idling the federal program that pays for testing and treatment for the uninsured.

Why it matters: Some 28 million Americans lack health coverage and may have fewer incentives to get care while COVID-19 continues to circulate.

Driving the news: The Health Resources & Services Administration's Uninsured Program stopped accepting claims for testing and treatment at midnight due to insufficient funds. Without additional money, it will only pay on vaccination-related claims through April 5.

  • The program reimburses health providers that care for the uninsured: Harris Health System in Texas has received the most payments for uninsured COVID patients of any hospital in the country — $198 million, per Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Background: The Biden administration is trying to convince Congress that $22.5 billion in additional COVID-19 spending is worth it amid the threat of new waves of virus. Earlier this month, lawmakers passed a $1.5 trillion spending package after stripping out a pared-down $15.6 billion request for COVID funds.

Meanwhile: The government also is at risk of falling behind on booster shots if it doesn't get more COVID relief money soon. The Biden administration needs between $4 billion and 9 billion to purchase another round of vaccine, officials say.

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