House, Senate Introduce Bills for Free Coronavirus Testing

March 13, 2020 Updated: March 13, 2020
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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democratic senators introduced a bill aimed at making coronavirus testing free for anyone, even if they don’t have insurance, as did several lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

The new virus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, has quickly spread in some states, with the main clusters being in Washington state, California, New York, and Massachusetts.

The Free COVID-19 Testing Act would waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and related health care services for people with insurance and cover the cost of lab fees for people without insurance.

The bill would also give the state incentives to cover testing and related services through their Medicaid programs and bar private insurers from imposing limits for testing.

Sens. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced the bill along with Schumer.

“It is not only morally wrong if people are forced to forgo testing because they can’t afford it, but also a serious risk to everyone in their community. Time is of the essence—this legislation must be passed without delay,” Schumer said in a statement.

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A woman wearing a protective mask uses hand sanitizer on arrival at Los Angeles International Airport on March 12, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

“Congress’ first and foremost responsibility is to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep people safe during this coronavirus outbreak, and that means making more test kits available and making sure that Americans don’t have to choose between taking a test or forgoing it because they can’t afford it,” Smith added.

Reps. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) introduced a bill in the House that would provide free testing for people without insurance.

“We cannot risk American lives for the sake of corporate profits. Our highest priority should be to mitigate and contain the spread of the virus,” Cardenas said in a statement.

The bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to to reimburse laboratories providing coronavirus testing for the uninsured, appropriating $1 billion for that purpose.

Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday that insurance executives agreed to waive all copays on coronavirus testing and extend coverage for virus treatment in all their insurance plans.

President Donald Trump told reporters earlier this month that his administration was going to look at what to do for people without insurance “because they have a big problem.”

“We’re going to be looking at the uninsured and see if we can help them out.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said officials were working with “Congress on programs to help hospitals as they care for” uninsured people with COVID-19.

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