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Democrats Should Stop Politicizing the Coronavirus


03.06.20

Washington, DC – As Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) has often said about this House Democratic Majority: it didn’t have to be this way. It’s true, and the coronavirus funding package (that President Donald Trump just signed into law) is just the latest example. House Democrats tried to use the issue of vaccine affordability to push controversial and political policy solutions into the deal.

Now, of course vaccine affordability is important, but it’s never been a problem in previous epidemics. So, for Democrats to needlessly delay this critical aid from going out to local health and public safety officials was simply unnecessary.

“I have not seen in my experience situations in which we were involved in the development of a vaccine, particularly for low- and middle-income countries that really needed it, where the pharmaceutical companies priced it out of their reach.” – Dr. Anthony Fauci who leads the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases [Roll Call]

Here are two important reads from The Washington Post and POLITICO that share some important context and news surrounding vaccine affordability and insurance plans covering coronavirus testing kits.

The Washington Post

A fight over vaccine affordability threatened the coronavirus spending package

By Paige Cunningham

March 5, 2020

Partisan fights over ensuring a future coronavirus vaccine is affordable for Americans nearly derailed Washington’s newly struck deal to combat the coronavirus.

Yet affordability hasn’t been a problem in previous epidemics — and it’s unlikely to be a problem this time around.

The federal government has a long-standing authority and pathway to work with industry to develop vaccines, diagnostic tests and other measures to counter the threat of a pandemic influenza. Through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, the Department of Health and Human Services can partner with drug companies on developing a vaccine and, once it’s ready, typically distribute the vaccine to Americans without charging out-of-pocket costs.

That’s what happened in the 2009 H1N1 epidemic, when the same companies that make seasonal flu shots developed a vaccine that was then made widely available. For this novel coronavirus, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi are contracting with BARDA to share research and development costs and develop a bank of potential vaccine candidates.

“With pandemic vaccines, [affordability] has never been a problem,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told CQ Roll Call last week. “They’re usually developed with a lot of government assistance, and there’s no example of a pandemic vaccine that wasn’t affordable. … And that’s what will happen again this time.”

…   

POLITICO

Insurers promise to cover coronavirus tests, relax coverage policies

By Susannah Luthi

March 5, 2020

A major health insurance trade group is pledging its member plans will cover doctor-ordered testing for the coronavirus amid rising confusion and concern about who will bear the cost of care in an outbreak.

America’s Health Insurance Plans made the commitment Thursday, although it’s still unclear when insurers might have to start paying for tests.

Cigna separately announced its customers will have access to coronavirus testing “as prescribed by health practitioners” and that it intends to waive co-pays and other forms of cost sharing.

AHIP also promised to take steps to dissuade patients from skipping tests or treatment due to cost concerns and potentially could waive co-pays. The trade group said it would begin relaxing policies on provider networks and referrals as well.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma applauded the move by insurers, noting she’d spoken with AHIP President Matt Eyles Thursday morning.

She told reporters earlier in the day that people who need to get tested should check with their insurance company about coverage but that it’s a “commonly covered” diagnostic. And she reiterated that state health departments are providing testing for free.

Vice President Mike Pence who is leading the White House coronavirus task force has given assurances that Obamacare plans as well as Medicare and Medicaid will cover any testing costs.


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