Democratic Senators introduce bill to provide free coronavirus testing

Democratic Senators introduce bill to provide free coronavirus testing
© Greg Nash

Several Senate Democrats introduced a bill Thursday that would expand free tests to confirm the COVID-19 infections regardless of health care coverage. 

The bill, dubbed the Free COVID-19 Testing Act, is led by Sens Tina SmithTina Flint SmithPelosi: George Floyd death is 'a crime' Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Four Minneapolis officers involved in death of unarmed black man fired MORE (Minn.), Gary PetersGary Charles PetersGOP votes to give chairman authority to subpoena Obama officials Democratic senator to skip vote on Obama-era subpoenas Comey, Rice, Clapper among GOP senator's targets for subpoenas amid Obama-era probe MORE (Mich.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayThe coronavirus crisis has cut the child care sector COVID-19 workplace complaints surge; unions rip administration Lack of child care poses major hurdle as businesses reopen MORE (D-Wash.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCBO releases analysis on extending increased unemployment benefits Overnight Health Care: Hydroxychloroquine ineffective in preventing COVID-19, study finds | WHO to resume hydroxychloroquine clinical research | WHO says no evidence coronavirus is mutating Bipartisan lawmakers press Trump administration to get COVID-19 aid to Medicaid providers MORE (D-Ore.), along with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSheldon Whitehouse leads Democrats into battle against Trump judiciary GOP lawmaker calls on Senate to confirm Michael Pack as head of US media agency McConnell blocks resolution condemning Trump over treatment of protesters MORE (D-N.Y.). 

“It is not only morally wrong if people are forced to forgo testing because they can’t afford it, but also a serious risk to everyone in their community,” Schumer said. “Time is of the essence — this legislation must be passed without delay.”

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Concerns over access to coronavirus testing and treatment have dominated the conversation on Capitol Hill in recent days as the disease continues to spread throughout the country. As of Thursday night, the U.S. has more than 1,600 confirmed cases as of the virus. 

At a Thursday evening speech from the oval office, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters MORE said that health insurers had pledged to eliminate “all co-payments for coronavirus treatments." Medicare and Medicaid are covering the cost of testing, though it's still unclear how much tests will cost for the uninsured. 

“We have not yet finalized our uninsured patient price,” Quest Diagnostics, one of the largest private testing companies told The Washington Post. “Our goal is to enable broad access.”

There has been mixed messaging from the White House on the availability of tests. Last week, Trump  told reporters "anybody that wants a test can get a test," though health officials have reported they are limiting tests to those who fit certain criteria due to shortages.

Senators from both sides of the aisle voiced concern Thursday over the status of "millions" of test kits to Vice President Pence, who is leading the administration's response. The vice president told them the tests would be available by the end of the week. 

“We are going to have — and I suspect are having, and I think they alluded to it in there — a supply chain problem,” said Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOn The Trail: Crisis response puts Trump on defense, even in red states If we seek resilience, we need liberty, not nationalism GOP senator blocks bill giving flexibility to small-business loans but says deal near MORE (R-Fla.).

The Senate bill comes as the House scrambles to reach an agreement on an economic relief package in response to the coronavirus. On Thursday, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNRCC turns up heat on vulnerable Democrats over Omar's call to abolish police Shocking job numbers raise hopes for quicker recovery Engel primary challenger hits million in donations MORE (D-Calif.) said they’re “close” to reaching a deal with the White House, which will likely come Friday.