White House warns uninsured fund could close without more COVID-19 relief

Congress’ failure to authorize further spending on the coronavirus response would have serious consequences, including depleting a fund to reimburse service providers caring for uninsured COVID-19 patients, a senior administration official said Tuesday.

The Department of Health and Human Services will begin phasing out the program next week, and it should be fully completed in early April without additional funds, the official told reporters. This will leave providers unpaid when they test, treat or vaccinate uninsured people.

Last week, lawmakers approved a $1.5 trillion package to fund government activities but did not include any money to fight the pandemic, even though the White House had requested $22.5 billion and had previously warned that the uninsured fund was about to dry up.

Congressional leaders removed $15.6 billion from legislation for pandemic programs at the last minute after a dispute over how to fund spending. “We must continue to fight for urgently needed COVID relief,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.) wrote. letter members ahead of last Wednesday’s vote.

The lack of new funding also means the federal government won’t be able to purchase enough doses of the vaccine for people who haven’t been boosted, the official said.

In addition, the administration of President Joe Biden is abandoning a plan to buy more drugs for the treatment of monoclonal antibodies and will distribute more than 30% fewer drugs to increase existing stocks, the official said. Authorities will also be forced to cut research and oversight on new variants of COVID-19 and reduce U.S. commitments to global vaccination efforts, the official said.

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