ATLANTA — Atlanta healthcare workers are speaking out against the loss of the COVID-19 Uninsured Program which will leave many Americans without the free COVID-19 treatment they have received since the beginning of the pandemic.
Earlier this week, The White House issued a press release stating that on March 22, due to a “lack of sufficient funds” the COVID-19 Uninsured Program will no longer be accepting insurance claims.
However, Atlanta healthcare workers are advocating for Congress to allocate relief funds so they can continue to provide the best care to this population.
“Taking this program away will significantly deprive the uninsured patient population from the treatment that they need to get better from COVID-19, once they have been tested positive,” said Naaz Malek, physician assistant and COO of Emergent Testing.
Despite the drop in COVID-19 cases recently, they say that without program funding there will be an inevitable spike in positive cases across the country. This will partially be due to the fact that treatment will not be affordable for most people in this vulnerable demographic.
“How do you put that number on an already underserved population that already does not have access to appropriate insurance, and coverage and other financial barriers,” said Dr. Ayana Herbert, founder of RTW Health Services. “The fear here is, you attach a number, you attach something monetary to the testing, people are not going to test.”
According to the White House, Congress needs to issue $22.5 billion to continue funding COVID-19 relief, but without it, Dr. Sofia Khan, CEO and founder of COVID Care Georgia, said there will be many people who will not even know they have the virus, leading to “an increase in acuity and severity of cases.”
She also said that the loss of this program will not only affect the uninsured population, but also many of the COVID-19 testing sites across the country. With a large amount of their patient intake being uninsured people, without funds to pay for treatments, many sites will be forced to permanently close their doors.
"So for COVID Care Georgia, 50-60% of our patients are uninsured. We will have to close. And it really bothers me because the reason why I went into this is because I wanted to give access to this community because they deserved it as much as anyone else did,” said Dr. Khan.
Nevertheless, these healthcare workers are not giving up. They have started reaching out to to government officials in hopes of getting the funding that they need to take care of all of their patients.
“So we have started to sound the alarm. We have started to communicate with senators and members of Congress, and we have started sending letters," Malek said.
They say everyone should get involved because it will impact Americans whether they are insured or not, and Dr. Herbert wants people to know that it is as easy as making the right calls.
“Call your congressman, call your senators, call the people, make the decisions because you are their constituents and they will listen to us…This is everyone's problem, but all of us can be a part of the solution.”
To get involved, you can sign their petition to Urge Legislators to Keep COVID Care Available and Free here.