[SEATTLE, WA] – U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy III (MA-04) today led 32 colleagues in introducing the Medicare Crisis Program Act to ensure everyone has guaranteed access to health care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation would expand Medicare and Medicaid eligibility during the crisis, cap out-of-pocket costs for Medicare enrollees, and eliminate co-pays, coinsurance or deductibles for COVID-19 testing and related care.
More than 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the last five weeks, and as a result many have lost their income and seen their health coverage disappear in the middle of a public health emergency. As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on our economy, it is estimated that up to 35 million Americans will lose their health coverage—joining the roughly 30 million who were previously uninsured. By dramatically expanding the number of Americans eligible for Medicare and Medicaid – two effective and efficient health insurance programs – the Medicare Crisis Program Act would guarantee Americans have health care when it is needed the most.
“Our nation’s for-profit, employment-based health care system did not make sense before COVID-19 struck, and it is proving dangerous and deadly during the crisis. Millions of Americans are losing their job and their health insurance at precisely the moment when we need everyone to be able to access care and treatment for illness,” said Jayapal. “The Medicare Crisis Program Act would guarantee health care for millions of people struggling with the health and economic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and protect Americans from outrageous out-of-pocket costs.”
“A health care system more concerned with profits than patients was never equipped to confront a pandemic like COVID-19. Because of our nation’s stubborn failure to guarantee universal health care, millions of people are now not only out of a job, but out of health care coverage as coronavirus ravages their communities. With the Medicare Crisis Program Act, we can begin to fill in the gaps of a fundamentally flawed health care system during this pandemic and chart a path towards Medicare For All when it ends,” said Kennedy.
The Medicare Crisis Program Act would:
- Expand Medicare: The legislation would enroll the recently unemployed and their household into Medicare, with coverage retroactive to the date of unemployment. It would also eliminate premiums and limit out-of-pocket costs at 5 percent of monthly income – not counting unemployment benefits – for all new and existing Medicare enrollees.
- Expand Medicaid Eligibility: The legislation would enhance federal funding to states for existing Medicaid enrollees, increase the federal income eligibility threshold for Medicaid to 300% of the federal poverty level, and pay 100% of the cost for newly eligible enrollees.
- Limit out-of-pocket costs for everyone: The legislation would require Medicare, Medicaid and all other public and private health insurers to cover all costs of COVID-19-related care, including if a patient seeks cares due to COVID-19 symptoms but ultimately tests negative. It would also prohibit health care providers from billing any of these services to those who remain uninsured.
The Medicare Crisis Program Act would remain in effect for enrollees until the federal and state unemployment rate returns to within 2% of the unemployment rate in the last quarter of 2019 or they are employed and enrolled in sufficient health insurance, whichever occurs first. The full text of the legislation is available here.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, the bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Yvette D. Clarke, Steve Cohen, Debbie Dingell, Mike Doyle, Eliot Engel, Adriano Espaillat, Tulsi Gabbard, Alcee L. Hastings, Jahana Hayes, Sheila Jackson Lee, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee, Alan Lowenthal, James P. McGovern, Grace Meng, Grace F. Napolitano, Joe Neguse, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Chellie Pingree, Ayanna Pressley, Jamie Raskin, Jan Schakowsky, Darren Soto, Mark Takano, Rashida Tlaib, Nydia M. Velázquez, Juan Vargas, and Peter Welch.
The legislation is also endorsed by more than 60 national and local organizations, including: American Medical Student Association (AMSA), American Muslim Health Professionals, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Commitee (ADC), Americans for Democratic Action Southern California, Business for Medicare for All, California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA), Caring Across Generations, Center for Health, Environment & Justice, Chronic Illnesses Advocacy & Awareness Group, Church World Service, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Coalition on Human Needs, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces, Debs-Jones-Douglass Institute, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), Equality Labs, Faith in Healthcare, Healthcare Is A Human Right Maryland – Anne Arundel County, Healthcare Now of Maryland, Heartland Alliance, Indivisible, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Just Care USA, Justice in Aging, Lower Shore Progressive Caucus, MAPS-AMEN (American Muslim Empowerment Network), Maryland Progressive Healthcare Coalition, Medicare for All NOW, Muslim Caucus of America, NAACP, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Council of Jewish Women, National Employment Law Project, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, National Human Services Assembly, National Women’s Health Network, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, Our Revolution, Partners for Dignity & Rights, People Demanding Action, People’s Action, Poligon Education Fund, Power to Decide, Progressive Maryland, Protect Our Care Illinois, Public Citizen, Right and Democracy of NY and NH, Right Care Alliance, Rights & Democracy – NH & VT, Social Security Works, Social Security Works Washington, The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), Union for Reform Judaism, United Action for Idaho, United Vision for Idaho, Universal Health Care Action Network, Washington Community Action Network, Asian Counseling and Referral Service, Our Revolution, Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and SEIU (Service Employees International Union).
“Just when we need it the most, America’s for-profit health insurance system is giving us its worst, with millions of Americans losing insurance as they lose their jobs and private insurers refusing to waive cost-sharing provisions for people with Covid-19. The Medicare Crisis Programs Act would build on the most effective and efficient part of our health care system – Medicare – to ensure everyone has access to the health care they need amidst the worst acute health crisis the nation has faced in the last century,” said Rob Weissman, president of Public Citizen.
“Doctors for America and its 20,000 members nationwide have been on the frontlines of this pandemic and we commend Representatives Jayapal and Kennedy for including critical health and life-saving measures that aim to ensure increased availability and equitable distribution of PPE and other medical equipment for all frontline workers. We also know firsthand that COVID-19 has not merely caused – but rather, exposed – the deep and critical problems that our patients face in affordability, equity, and accessibility of their health care. We applaud this proposal for ensuring coverage, affordability, and access to health care for all of our patients during the COVID crisis, while illustrating one of several viable approaches for moving toward universal health care in the future. This crisis shows us that, as a nation, we are all in this together: We should all have access to PPE when caring for and serving others, and we should all have insurance coverage that does not disappear when you need it nor depend on your employment status during a pandemic,” said Drs. Justin Lowenthal and Meenakshi Bewtra, co-chairs of the COVID-19 response taskforce and members of the national board of directors of Doctors for America.
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