Trump’s decision to insure the uninsured through a new hospital bailout fund came days after he ruled out reopening Obamacare’s marketplaces during the pandemic. This rejection, which surprised some of his own health officials, created a mess to reassure tens of millions of uninsured Americans that they would not have to worry about financial devastation if they contracted the disease.
The government has also not yet announced how the federal government will pay out a separate funding pool for diagnostic tests for uninsured Americans. This funding was approved by Congress a month ago, about two weeks before the administration also promised to cover treatment for the uninsured.
According to the legions of advocates who help patients find their way around America’s Byzantine healthcare system, nervous patients are increasingly wondering if they will be on the hook for potentially massive costs. They say that they have no answers yet.
Some hospitals have indicated that they are holding back invoices to uninsured patients, while others offer financial support even if they are facing new financial burdens due to the health crisis. Some uninsured Covid 19 patients have seen sky-high bills of testing and hospital costs.
“What is completely missing is an explanation for the patient,” said Sara Rosenbaum, professor of health law at George Washington University. “If you don’t have to worry about care because the hospital is supposed to take care of you and the hospital bills you, what then? There was absolutely no communication with the public.”
A federal official who helped design the uninsured treatment pool said the administration acknowledges that there must ultimately be a robust messaging campaign so that uninsured people know they can get free care.
“We have an eye for real people and we don’t want them to be afraid to seek help,” said the official, who asked for anonymity.
However, this work cannot begin until the administration has completed plans for the uninsured treatment pool.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Human Services said the administration “finalized” plans to cover the uninsured, but did not specify a schedule other than “in the near future.” A source from the administration said about the $ 100 billion bailout that officials are “working as hard as possible to get the money out as soon as possible.”
Internal discussions drag on as hospitals, doctors, and clinics ask health authorities to get the remaining emergency dollars out of the same bailout fund that Trump used to cover the uninsured. Some clinics have temporarily closed, and hospitals have given workers leave after they suspended lucrative election procedures during the crisis to conserve resources and minimize the risk of infection.
Scott Christensen, administrator of the Delta Regional Medical Center in Mississippi, said his security network hospital had not billed coronavirus testing or treatment while awaiting further instructions from the Trump administration. These are particularly challenging times for the hospital – revenue has dropped 50 to 60 percent, and a lot of money has been spent on setting up transit exams and a new intensive care unit for the respiratory tract. However, he said that hospital officials are sensitive to patients’ cost issues.
“I don’t want our church to avoid care at a time like this when it is afraid to get a big bill,” Christensen said.
When the administration announced their plan for the uninsured, HHS secretary Alex Azar insisted that he was better than Obamacare, as he would cover the costs without additional payments or deductibles for insured patients. However, advocates of Obamacare said the move had done little to meet the general health needs of the uninsured population, including follow-up care, which can be intensive for patients with recovered coronavirus.
Nearly 30 million people had no health insurance prior to the last month of economic destruction, and millions more have joined their ranks since then. The cost of treating coronavirus for this group may fluctuate – the bipartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimated earlier this month that the bill could reach nearly $ 14 to $ 42 billion.
This could make a significant contribution to Congress’s $ 100 billion fund, which has been approved to help doctors, hospitals and hospitals cover the costs of protective equipment for workers and life-saving medical devices such as ventilators and lost revenue from the Compensate for cancellation of electoral procedures.
The $ 2.2 trillion CARES Act last month, which included the industrial bailout fund, gave the Trump administration a lot of leeway to distribute that dollar. Hospital lobbyists were surprised by Trump’s decision to use the fund for uninsured people and urged lawmakers to replenish the fund. However, some health care analysts have argued that targeting the fund to cover uninsured people in severely affected hospitals would be a more efficient way of spending money where it is most needed.
HHS shipped its first tranche of $ 30 billion to healthcare providers over a week ago. Hospitals and democratic legislators have urged the administration to quickly distribute additional funds. However, Azar told the owners of the house According to a letter from the chairman of the Subcommittee on Healthcare Products, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), The next round of funding will take place later this week.
At least one Medicaid expansion site, Tennessee, has now applied for additional Medicaid funds to cover coronavirus treatment costs for uninsured patients directly. Republican Bill Lee, governor of Tennessee, however, said CMS administrator Seema Verma had indicated that his application was likely to be rejected, referring to the already approved Congress law on massive incentives. CMS did not respond to a request for comment.
In the meantime, healthcare providers said they are still looking for clarity on promises to cover diagnostic testing costs for uninsured patients.
An emergency coronavirus package approved by Congress a month before the CARES law passed included a $ 1 billion fund that the Trump administration used to reimburse providers for these tests. Hospitals said they had no details of how they could be paid from this fund. HHS has not replied to questions about this fund.
Regardless, this bailout also allowed states to expand their Medicaid programs to cover only diagnostic tests for the uninsured. These exemptions could be particularly helpful in the 14 states that have opposed Obamacare’s extension of the program to poor adults.