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 Smith (Minn.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), along with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (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.”

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 Trump 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 Rubio (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 Pelosi (D-Calif.) said they’re “close” to reaching a deal with the White House, which will likely come Friday.

Tags Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Coronavirus coronavirus outbreak Donald Trump Gary Peters Health insurance Marco Rubio Medicaid Medicare Mike Pence Nancy Pelosi Patty Murray Ron Wyden Tina Smith
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