WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today introduced a bill aimed at helping Americans with the medical costs of any tests, care, or treatment related to the novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. The Care for COVID-19 Act would require health insurance plans to cover both diagnostic and treatment services related to the virus, with no cost-sharing to the patient. This includes the cost of prescriptions, vaccines, diagnostic tests, and visits to the emergency room, urgent care facilities, or doctor’s office.
The bill would also create a special enrollment period to allow individuals impacted by COVID-19 to enroll in a health plan through the health insurance marketplace.
“For so many Americans, fears of health care costs and potential medical debt are major barriers standing in the way of getting the care they need,” Booker said. “During a public health emergency like the one we are experiencing right now, it’s even more imperative that people are able to obtain affordable health care. This common-sense bill will ensure individuals can get the diagnostic and treatment services they need right now.”
“At a time when our country faces a real public health crisis, the dangers of the Trump Administration’s ongoing assault on Americans’ access to affordable health care becomes even more stark,” Menendez said. “The coronavirus does not discriminate based on how much money you make or how good your health care plan is. And no person should be in more fear of paying for the health care treatment they need than the potential danger of a virus they may have.”
The legislation builds upon efforts in New Jersey and New York, where Governors Phil Murphy and Andrew Cuomo have waived consumer cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing for individuals covered by state-regulated health insurance plans. This federal bill would apply to a broader range of insurance plans, including those offered on the health insurance marketplace.
Full text of the legislation is available here.
Today’s bill comes on the heels of Booker’s efforts last week to prioritize funding for state and local health departments, which are on the front lines of this public health crisis. On Friday, Booker and Menendez wrote to the HHS Secretary urging him to swiftly unlock emergency funds for state and local health departments, and on Tuesday Booker urged Senate leaders to prioritize such funding in the emergency package they were negotiating.
Earlier this week, Menendez met with health care workers at one of New Jersey’s Federally Qualified Health Centers to talk about how the Administration is undermining access to affordable health care at a time when the country is facing a public health crisis.
Booker and Menendez have also written to the White House about concerns that international travelers are not being screened properly at U.S. airports.
In January, as cases of Coronavirus began to spike, he and Menendez successfully pushed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for heightened passenger screening at Newark Liberty International Airport along with other U.S. ports of entries. Booker has also joined letters to the Administration urging it to establish clear guidelines for state and local governments to receive federal reimbursement for costs incurred dealing with the outbreak and to issue an emergency protective order to protect front-line workers.