Washington, DC — As worries about the spread of coronavirus rise, President Trump and his administration have failed to address concerns over the affordability of a future vaccine, treatment and testing. The lip service they have paid to the issue is belied by a health care record which includes a spike in the uninsured and a relentless war on coverage and protections afforded to millions through the health care law. 

“When it comes to Americans’ concerns about the affordability of a future coronavirus vaccine and the testing for and treatment of the virus, President Trump and his administration have failed miserably,” said Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse. “President Trump refuses to commit to both an affordable vaccine and affordable care for the uninsured, the number of whom has increased by millions as a result of his policies. 

“What’s more, Trump’s war on health care will make our nation’s coronavirus response worse than it already is and put more people at risk of contracting and spreading the virus. His efforts to repeal the health care law or overturn it in court would take coverage away from 20 million Americans, deny protections for 135 million people with pre-existing conditions and would throw our health care system into total chaos. With all of this, it’s no wonder that polling released today shows Americans disapprove of President Trump’s handling of this crisis and are worried about the spread of the coronavirus as a result. Based on President Trump’s war on health care and his administration’s failures in the current crisis, Americans have every right to be concerned.” 

BACKGROUND:

The Trump administration has not committed to making the vaccine affordable. The Trump administration has failed to commit to making a potential coronavirus vaccine affordable. While the spending package passed in Congress includes some affordability language, Trump has made no plans to address access to treatment for the uninsured. 

Trump is pushing short-term junk plans that would not need to cover coronavirus treatment. Junk plans do not need to comply with the consumer protections established by the Affordable Care Act, including coverage of essential health benefits. The expansion of junk plans under Trump has already led to reports of patients receiving thousands of dollars in unexpected medical bills. 

The uninsured rate is rising under Trump. Uninsured individuals are far less likely to seek medical treatment when they are sick. Amid growing concern about what would be done for uninsured patients seeking coronavirus tests, the Trump administration has so far deflected the problem. While Trump said the White House would “see if we can help them out,” Pence refused to answer questions on this subject altogether. At least 7 million people have already lost coverage under Trump, and experts warn that recent enactment of anti-immigration policies will only serve to deter more people from gaining coverage and seeking medical treatment.

Making matters worse, Trump is backing a lawsuit that would rip away coverage from 20 million people. The Trump administration is currently backing a lawsuit that overturn the Affordable Care Act and, if they are successful, 20 million people would lose insurance overnight. 

The administration’s promise to make coronavirus treatment an “essential health benefit” rings hollow and does not solve the problem of affordability. Any reliance on essential health benefits leaves millions of Americans out in the cold. EHBs only apply to ACA-compliant plans, which the administration is trying to eliminate through their lawsuit. EHBs are also subject to cost-sharing and deductibles, making treatment out of reach for many families. Per the New York Times’ Margot Sanger-Katz, “a change to EHB would require some sort of regulatory change. HHS has issued no new rule or guidance on this matter so far.” 

Americans have already received steep bills for seeking coronavirus treatment. One man in Florida who had traveled to China sought treatment for coronavirus symptoms and ended up with thousands of dollars in medical bills. A Pennsylvania man who had been quarantined with his daughter after returning from China received nearly $4,000 in medical bills. There has been no response from the administration on how to address existing medical bills from coronavirus. 

Republicans continue to reject guaranteed paid sick leave. Many experts have pointed out that American workers face serious barriers to taking time off when they are sick, which could contribute to the spread of the virus. As it stands, about 33.6 million workers do not have access to paid sick leave, and Republicans continue to block the passage of paid sick-leave legislation. During his appearance on Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News, Trump implied that it was all right for people to continue to go to work while sick.