Once the government supply of treatments runs out, health care providers will have to buy them themselves, with insurers covering the costs for Americans as they do for other treatments. People without coverage will in most cases pay for medication out of pocket. The same goes for coronavirus testing.
And with coronavirus vaccine prices expected to rise in the commercial market, vaccines could eventually become less accessible to people without insurance. The federal government has purchased a large supply of updated booster doses, but another round of vaccines should be needed next year.
The Biden administration has proposed a new program called Vaccines for Adults that is modeled after a federal program that provides free vaccines to children. If funded by Congress, the program would provide coronavirus injections and other vaccines while reimbursing providers for administration costs.
The government has also been talking with vaccine and treatment makers about funding their own programs for the uninsured, said Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services, at an event hosted by the Kaiser family. Foundation this fall.
“We try to pull a few levers at a time,” she said.
In 15 states, a temporary federal provision allows Medicaid funds to be used to cover vaccine costs, treatment and testing for uninsured people. But that program will expire when the federal government lifts its public health emergency declaration for the pandemic, a move it could make as soon as next year.
The Biden administration has also experimented with a smaller program that could offer a model for future distribution methods. In September, weeks after a monoclonal antibody treatment from Eli Lilly went on the market, the administration announced it would make 60,000 doses available to health care providers. Each time a provider used a store-bought dose for an uninsured patient, the federal government offered to replace that dose. (The Food and Drug Administration said last week that the drug, which shouldn’t work against novel coronavirus variants, was no longer authorized for emergency use.)
There were warning signs even before the uninsured federal fund expired of the hassles ahead. Anthony Lund, a professional health insurance counselor who previously worked at a Mayo Clinic testing center in Minnesota, once offered assurances to uninsured patients he had scheduled for coronavirus testing: The federal government would take bear the cost.
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