This week, Congress passed legislation (H.R. 6201) that waives all Medicare beneficiary cost-sharing for coronavirus testing and the associated doctor’s office visit.
The legislation contains a number of other provisions that also advance critical health care and fiscal priorities, including enhanced federal Medicaid funding for states, support for nutrition services, unemployment aid, and paid sick leave. The package is the second coronavirus bill to pass Congress. Earlier this month, Congress provided $8.3 billion in emergency appropriations to improve public health preparedness and response.
These bills are important initial steps, but additional financial relief and program flexibilities will likely be needed as the coronavirus emergency evolves. Lawmakers are already working on a third package, which may tackle any number of issues—from improving Medicare access and affordability to changes that address industry, economic, and workforce concerns.
The Medicare Rights Center weighed in this week with two letters to Congress that outlined shared priorities for any future legislation. The letters focus on investments and policies that are needed to promote the health and economic security of older adults and people with disabilities during this uncertain time. Among the recommendations are solutions to help people stay safe and healthy in whatever place they call home, as well as several to facilitate timely and meaningful access to Medicare health care and prescription drug coverage.
Such reforms are needed now more than ever. While more information about coronavirus is emerging every day, the data have long been clear that people with Medicare are uniquely at risk. As this crisis continues, so will our work to protect and strengthen Medicare and other programs on which older adults, people with disabilities, and their families rely.