Physicians, health care providers losing reimbursements for COVID-19 tests, vaccines

Physician groups join White House in call for Congress to OK $22.5 billion in aid

Federal reimbursements are ending for health care providers offering COVID-19 tests for uninsured patients and reimbursements for vaccines will stop soon, according to the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Physician groups are calling on Congress to approve more federal aid to fight the pandemic, including funding for the tests and shots for uninsured patients.

The White House has published a list of consequences looming if Congress does not act on additional resources in a proposed $22.5 billion in immediate emergency relief funding.

The Uninsured Program, administered by the Health Resources & Services Administration of HHS to reimburse doctors and other medical providers, is running out of money. On March 22, it stopped taking claims for COVID-19 testing and treatment for uninsured patients “due to a lack of sufficient funds.”

The move will force physicians and other providers “to either absorb the cost or turn away people who are uninsured, increasing the disparity in access to critically needed health care and putting additional burdens on safety net providers,” the administration’s summary said.

April 5 is the last day to submit claims for reimbursement for vaccination costs, according HHS. As of March 24, more than 217.18 million people, or 66.17% of the population, was fully vaccinated.

An estimated 31.1 million people of all ages, or 9.6% of the U.S. population, were uninsured, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Without congressional approval, the federal government does not have enough money to pay for booster shots for all Americans, if needed, according to the White House.

There will not be enough funding for additional monoclonal antibody treatments and research will halt for next-generation vaccines and treatments. There will be less capacity for identifying emerging variants and global vaccination and treatment efforts will be at risk, the administration said.

Along with suggestions on relief for hospitals and health systems, the American Hospital Association (AHA) “strongly” supported the Biden Administration’s request for funding for vaccines and therapeutics, testing, research and funding that supports the uninsured.

“These are essential to our country’s ability to respond to COVID-19,” said an AHA letter to congressional leaders.

The American College of Physicians and the American Medical Association have urged Congressional leaders to approve additional resources against the COVID-19 pandemic.