AOC says that ensuring access to free coronavirus testing and treatment is ‘absolutely’ an ‘argument for Medicare for All’

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in October 2019.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in October 2019.
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MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images
  • AOC told the Huffington Post that the government is taking steps to guarantee free coronavirus testing and medical treatment.
  • “What this crisis has taught us is that, our health care system and our public health are only as strong as the sickest person in this country,” she told the outlet.
  • Concerns are increasing that the expensive nature of American healthcare could discourage people from seeking medical treatment if they are infected with the coronavirus.
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Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview published Tuesday that ensuring free coronavirus testing and medical treatment is “absolutely” an “argument for Medicare for All.”

The New York congresswoman told the Huffington Post that if the government took steps to guarantee public access to testing and treatments by paying for it, “then what makes coronavirus different from so many other diseases, particularly ones that are transmissible?”

“What this crisis has taught us is that, our health care system and our public health are only as strong as the sickest person in this country,” she told the outlet.

Medicare for All is the signature plan of Sen. Bernie Sanders, a leading Democratic presidential candidate that Ocasio-Cortez has thrown her support behind. It would provide comprehensive health coverage and do away with deductibles, premiums, and other out-of-pocket spending. Private insurance would be eliminated as well.

As of Wednesday, the coronavirus has infected more than 94,000 people in at least 80 countries beyond China, its point of origin. The death toll from the respiratory disease it causes, COVID-19, has killed more than 3,200 people, mostly in China. There are at least 128 confirmed cases in the US.

Over the last week, concerns have mounted that the skyrocketing costs of healthcare could form a barrier discouraging people from getting tested and receiving treatment for the virus.

Business Insider recently analyzed the medical bill of a Miami resident who tested negative for the coronavirus but still racked up a $1,400 in costs, though he was insured. The majority of it came from an emergency room visit.

The Trump administration announced on Monday it was reviewing what products and services it would cover for coronavirus under Medicare and Medicaid, the two biggest federal health insurance programs.

Vice President Mike Pence said a day later the programs would insure diagnostic testing, making it free for patients. But it was not immediately clear what additional medical care would be paid for by the government.

“People who are subject to cost sharing – they are less likely to use medical care, even if they need it,” John Cogan, a health-law expert at the University of Connecticut, previously told Business Insider.

The White House is also reportedly considering reimbursing hospitals and doctors for treating unsinsured coronavirus patients. In 2018, 27.5 million Americans had no health insurance, an increase from 25.2 million the year before.