August 03, 2020

KENNEDY, JAYAPAL PUSH PANDEMIC MEDICARE EXPANSION PLAN

Lawmakers demand inclusion of Medicare Crisis Program Act in stimulus package

Washington, D.C. – As millions of unemployed Americans lose their health care coverage, Congressman Joe Kennedy III and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal are calling on Congressional Leadership to include their Medicare Crisis Program Act in any further economic stimulus packages. 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.

“In the midst of the nation’s most acute health care crisis in the last century, we must ensure everyone has guaranteed health care,” wrote Kennedy and Jayapal. “Coupled with the historic levels of unemployment and economic instability, an estimated 5.4 million people around the country have lost their employer-based health insurance coverage, joining the roughly 30 million uninsured individuals at the outset of the crisis.  Millions of people have fallen into the coverage gaps and cannot access Medicaid, COBRA, or the ACA marketplace. Allowing people to lose their health insurance in the midst of a public health pandemic is completely unacceptable. This is why we introduced H.R. 6674, The Medicare Crisis Program Act, to expand our country’s reliable and effective public health insurance programs to provide health security for our unemployed and uninsured. We must do more to ensure everyone has the health services they need.

They continued, “As this pandemic persists and the number of COVID-19 cases increase rapidly, the number of unemployment claims will continue to rise. The Medicare Crisis Program Act would guarantee healthcare for millions of people struggling with the health and economic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. It protects Americans from outrageous out-of-pocket costs and removes the financial burden when seeking care. We cannot allow those who are unemployed to face any additional hardships and we must do everything we can to protect them. Therefore, Congress should move for immediate inclusion of the Medicare Crisis Program Act into the next stimulus package.”

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 provide 100% federal assistance to cover 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).

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