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Trump administration considering paying for uninsured coronavirus patients' medical care: report

Trump administration considering paying for uninsured coronavirus patients' medical care: report
© Greg Nash

The Trump administration is considering paying the cost of care for uninsured patients with the coronavirus using a national disaster reimbursement program, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The program allows the federal government to pay hospitals and other medical providers about 110 percent of Medicare rates for patients affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes.

Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr. Robert Kadlec said Tuesday at a congressional hearing that officials are in talks about using the National Disaster Medical System’s reimbursement program.

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The number of people who had no insurance at any point during the year rose in 2018 to 8.5 percent, or 27.5 million, up from 2017 when it was 25.6 million, or 7.9 percent. Hospitals provided more than $38 billion in uncompensated care in 2017, according to the Journal, citing the American Hospital Association (AHA).

“We encourage the department to look at using a national disaster program as an option because no one should think twice about seeking screening or treatment due to costs,” AHA executive vice president Tom Nickels, told the newspaper. “We also urge them to cover both patients who have coronavirus and those who are under investigation for coronavirus.”

A 2007 report in the Journal of Health Care Finance found that a pandemic similar to the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918 could involve a net loss of $3.9 billion for American policies.

Such a declaration was previously used for Hurricane Irma in 2017, when it covered about 85 patients.

More than 100 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the U.S. thus far, according to the newspaper, with Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying in a Tuesday hearing “we are seeing community transmission in a few places.”