PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Federal COVID-19 relief money is running out. The White House will start phasing out a program that reimbursed doctors, providers and pharmacies for testing, treating and vaccinating uninsured people.
“If additional funding isn’t provided at some point in the near future, the test sites will no longer be viable, and essentially the entire network will collapse,” said Raymond Embry, the CEO of Embry Health.
Congress failed to pass $22.5 billion in COVID-19 response money, and now the federal government is making cuts. Free testing and treatment for the uninsured end Tuesday at midnight. The latest U.S. Census report said more than 820,000 Arizonans have no health insurance. Embry said 60% of his patients are uninsured. For now, they are going to start covering the costs themselves, so everyone has access to testing.
“We are operating as if the federal funding is still there. We are going to go ahead and continue seeing uninsured patients across America as well as our partners,” said Embry.
In Arizona, cases and hospitalizations are down, but they see a spike in the U.K. and Europe. Doctors are not ruling out another surge in the United States. “I think if there is another big surge if we don’t respond quickly and backfill this kind of money and do it in this kind of way, it will almost guarantee to make surge worse,” said Embry.
The White House said without more funding by April; the U.S. won’t have enough money to cover vaccines for uninsured people. Embry said that impacts all of us. “Vaccines are communal good. It matters to you whether your neighbor is vaccinated because the more people around you that can get vaccinated, the less likely they are to get infected, and you are to be exposed,” said Embry.
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