The Trump administration says Medicare and Medicaid might not cover all healthcare for coronavirus patients

Seema Verma.

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Seema Verma.
source
Thomson Reuters
  • The Trump administration said Monday that it was “looking” at what healthcare would be covered by Medicaid and Medicare as it relates to coronavirus care.
  • “We are looking at what we cover and clarifying the types of products and services that our programs will be able to pay for in terms of Medicare and Medicaid,” the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said.
  • It opens the door to the possibility that older Americans, a demographic at greater risk, will have to pay up to receive medical treatment for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
  • “People who are subject to cost sharing – they are less likely to use medical care, even if they need it,” a health-law expert told Business Insider.
  • A few days ago, the Health and Human Services secretary was forced to backtrack after refusing to say that a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable for all Americans.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said on Monday evening that her agency may not be able to pay for all “products and services” required for coronavirus patients dependent on government insurance.

“We are looking at what we cover and clarifying the types of products and services that our programs will be able to pay for in terms of Medicare and Medicaid,” Verma said.

Verma made the comments during a press briefing held by Vice President Mike Pence on Monday to discuss the novel coronavirus, the risk it poses to Americans, and the government’s response efforts.

It opens the door to the possibility that older Americans – a demographic at greater risk from coronavirus – will have to pay up to receive medical treatment. Many Medicare beneficiaries are subject to a $1,408 deductible, with coinsurance that kicks in after the second month starting at $352 per day and gradually scaling upward.

“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, told Business Insider. “This could put them at greater risk and spread the disease.”

Pence otherwise attempted to quell concerns about the virus, saying “the risk to the American people from the coronavirus remains low.”

As of Monday, the coronavirus had spread to more than 60 countries and infected more than 88,000 people, with the vast majority of cases in China. The disease it causes, COVID-19, has killed more than 3,000 people.

The briefing came a few days after Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar initially declined to promise that a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable for all Americans.

“We would want to ensure that we work to make it affordable, but we can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest,” Azar told members of Congress on Wednesday during a hearing concerning the coronavirus outbreak and the administration’s budget request. “Price controls won’t get us there.”

After massive backlash and condemnation from Democrats and others, the administration reversed course on Thursday and said any future COVID-19 vaccine would be made affordable.

“I have directed my teams that if we do any joint venture with a private enterprise, that we’re cofunding the research-and-development program, that we would ensure there’s access to the fruits of that, whether vaccine or therapeutics,” Azar said.

On Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a directive ordering health insurers to waive all costs related to the coronavirus for emergency-room, urgent-care, and doctor visits.

“We can’t let cost be a barrier to access to COVID-19 testing for any New Yorker,” Cuomo tweeted.