“Who will pay for this?” After being informed that he must be on a ventilator, these were the last sinister words of a patient who eventually died of the coronavirus. The cost of COVID-19 treatment adds to the fear, anxiety and uncertainty that so many Americans feel and are already crippled by financial insecurity. We have to solve this problem.
This is why Representative Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, and I introduced the Medicaid for Coronavirus Treatment Act as an emergency law to cover all costs of treating coronaviruses through Medicaid. While Congress has passed bipartisan legislation to ensure that everyone can get a free coronavirus test, our legislation would provide a national plan to expand health insurance coverage for people with coronavirus.
Under this legislation, anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 since President Trump’s national emergency declaration, under the Stafford law of March 13, 2020, would be automatically eligible for Medicaid. In addition, Medicaid would continue to cover all treatments and tests related to coronaviruses even after the end of the national emergency.
People across the country are experiencing financial instability. The tragic reality is that not only are their sources of income disappearing, but they are also losing their health care benefits – adding to the 27.9 million people who are already uninsured. If they or a loved one is hospitalized because of the coronavirus, those days, weeks or months in the hospital add to the pile of bills to pay. Almost 40 percent of Americans are already unable to afford a $ 400 emergency, and this health and economic crisis is worsening the situation of families across the country.
In this time of crisis, the last things patients should be saddled with are soaring medical bills. One study found that the average cost of treatment for a hospitalized person is $ 30,000, while other estimates consider it as high as $ 74,310. The figures vary depending on whether or not a person has insurance, what type of insurance, the type of care and so many other variables.
If people cannot afford their medical bills, our hospitals bear the cost, crushing an already very thin healthcare system. With a high underinsured and uninsured population, everyone is hooked on the tab.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, several states, including California, have opened special registration periods for health care. However, for states that have not decided and with the administration not to open a special registration period nationwide, Americans are afraid of how they will pay for treatment. This unprecedented situation requires an unprecedented response.
This answer is Medicaid. A recent coronavirus survey found that 71% of Americans support the expansion of Medicaid to cover costs for people without health insurance until the end of 2020. Thanks to Medicaid, my legislation not only provides care and cover treatment for those who need it, but also creates a more transparent payment process and reliable funding flow to reimburse hospitals for the vital care they provide.
Our federal government must step up its efforts to relieve the stress and trauma in our communities. This crisis has wreaked havoc on our families, our workers, our health care system and our economy. The Medicaid Coronavirus Emergency Treatments Act gives peace of mind to families receiving treatment and helping our hospitals on the front lines.
More than ever, we must pay attention to each other. I am determined to continue working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues to bring the relief and the solutions, like this bill, that the American people need to overcome these challenges.
Although there have been times when we have felt helpless, we must remember the resilience, determination and strength of the American spirit. We’re going to go through, together.
Gilbert Cisneros represents the 39th Congress District of California.