White House Unveils Plan to Cover Virus Treatment for Uninsured

A nurse operates a ventilator for a Covid-19 patient at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Yonkers, N.Y., on Monday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Trump administration on Wednesday rolled out its plan to reimburse health care providers that treat patients with Covid-19 who do not have health insurance.

The Department of Health and Human Services will use part of a $100 billion fund included in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that became law at the end of last month to pay health care providers at Medicare rates for treating uninsured patients.

“Our goal in all the decisions we’re making is to get the money from the Provider Relief Fund out the door as quickly as possible while targeting it to those suffering the most from the pandemic,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “We will continue using every regulatory and payment flexibility we have to help providers continue doing their vital work until we’ve defeated the virus.”

Azar announced at the beginning of April that the federal government would pay hospitals and other health care providers for treating uninsured patients with Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Under the plan announced Wednesday, providers can start signing up for reimbursement on April 27 and be able to start making claims in early May.

The Department of Health and Human Services did not detail exactly how much money it would send out to reimburse providers, just that reimbursement would be “subject to available funding.”

Aside from the treatment of the uninsured, the Department of Health and Human Services will finish distributing $50 billion Congress set aside in the fund for Medicare facilities. Providers have already received $30 billion from that pot of money, according to the agency, and the remainder will start rolling out at the end of this week.

The agency also plans to send $10 billion to hospitals in regions that have been hit hard by the outbreak, such as New York, an additional $10 billion to rural hospitals and providers and $400 million to the Indian Health Service.

That leaves roughly $29.6 billion to reimburse providers who care for the uninsured. A report from the Kaiser Family Foundation on April 7 found reimbursing at Medicare rates for the care of uninsured patients would cost between $13.9 billion and $41.8 billion, depending on a range of factors, including how many people ultimately are infected and how many require severe hospitalization.

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