- The American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA) and AdvaMedDx, the medical device lobby’s division representing diagnostics makers, have joined with more than 60 organizations calling on congressional leaders to immediately replenish a fund that enabled uninsured people to access COVID-19 testing.
- Citing insufficient funds, the COVID-19 Uninsured Relief Fund stopped accepting new claims for testing on March 22. ACLA, AdvaMedDx and the other signatories of the letter warn the funding expiration may put “the most vulnerable members” of communities at risk of losing resources to diagnose new COVID-19 infections.
- The authors of the letter want Congress to act immediately to replenish the fund and prioritize the protection of “Americans’ ability to access the critical diagnostics tools they need to fight the pandemic” regardless of their insurance status. The letter, sent to congressional leaders on Wednesday, comes as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in all but six states and Washington, D.C., with the omicron BA.2 subvariant continuing to spread across the U.S.
Lawmakers came together early in the pandemic to allow healthcare providers to seek reimbursement for any testing or treatment of uninsured people with a COVID-19 primary diagnosis. However, with the White House unable to extract more funding from Congress, it emerged last month that the support was coming to an end, first for testing and treatment and shortly thereafter for vaccines.
The ending of the support programs has sparked a broad response from the healthcare industry. In a letter to Democrat and Republican leaders in the House and Senate, ACLA, AdvaMedDx and other groups affected by the change made the case for the restoration of the fund.
“Without it, many of our nation’s most vulnerable communities may lose access to testing, treatments and vaccinations, placing themselves and others at risk of infection. What’s more, without assurances to replenish funding, providers across the country are left without recourse to handle the influx of demand from uninsured Americans, forcing them to make decisions about the long-term sustainability of providing COVID-19 tests and services,” the letter states.
According to ACLA, the fund enabled its members to perform more than 8 million tests for uninsured individuals last year. The uninsured testing was made possible by Congress’ willingness to replenish the fund as needed.
ACLA and its cosignatories have advocates in Congress. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., used a hearing on the reauthorization of FDA user fee programs to push for the urgent provision of fresh COVID-19 funding.
“We’ve got to get this done — because families are counting on us to provide communities the tests, treatments, and vaccines they need to keep people healthy, protect our hard won progress against this pandemic, and keep our country ready for whatever comes next,” Murray said.
Opposition to providing more funding in Congress comes as other countries are scaling back and dismantling their COVID-19 testing programs. In England, free PCR and rapid antigen testing is now limited to specific groups such as residents of care homes and people working in the state healthcare service. People who develop symptoms are advised, but not legally required, to stay home and cannot access free tests.