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The Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has quickly spurred a public health crisis throughout the United States. While the spread of the disease was inevitable, many health and government officials did not take the necessary precautions to reduce impact or make testing kits readily available.

As of Saturday, March 14, the House of Representatives approved an emergency response package to combat the backlash that has ensued since the virus was confirmed in the U.S. The new bill is aimed at helping regulate economic status, expand food assistance programs, and provide paid sick leave for affected workers.  

Although this legislation is said to provide paid sick leave for those infected or for anyone showing symptoms, it would still leave millions of citizens uncovered based on their employer status. The issue with benefits outlined in this bill is that reimbursements only apply to businesses with a certain number of employees, under 500 and over 50. That leaves a wide margin of businesses who can’t provide accommodations for their workers. However, big companies like Walmart and Target are implementing paid sick days for employees without aid from the government.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), originally introduced the bill and included a provision that allows any American citizen with health insurance to receive free testing for the virus if they are recommended by a doctor. As stipulated by the bill, health insurers are to cover 100 percent of the cost of the test and will aim to prohibit cost-sharing. 

“We need to do everything we can to increase testing across the country and protect the health of the American people,” DeGette said. “No one should have to worry about how they are going to pay for this test, and we can’t afford to have people hesitating to come forward if they are sick because of its cost.”

Cost-sharing is a loophole used by many private insurance companies which gives them allowance to pass on a portion of costs to patients after the fact. In the wake of COVID-19 continuing to spread rapidly throughout the states, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed privately-run facilities and health labs to use their own tests to screen patients. This move will enable a much higher rate of individuals to receive tests for the virus; however, the downside is that those facilities will be looking for compensation following analysis. 

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Widespread panic has been affecting American citizens, especially in highly condensed and populated areas. At a time when individuals are at risk of involuntary unemployment, exposure to the virus, and fear of infecting their friends and family, no one wants to have to add unexpected medical bills to their list of concerns. Vice President Mike Pence recently announced that the administration would seek to have the coronavirus tests deemed an “essential health benefit” under the terms of the Affordable Care Act.

The new bill also explicitly requires Medicare and Medicaid to cover the full cost of any tests for their beneficiaries. Despite so many uncertainties, state and federal officials are working tirelessly to ensure the safety of citizens and initiate safety procedures that will reduce COVID-19 threats. The most important thing to remember is to stay calm; wash your hands; reduce physical contact, and keep yourself updated on the facts of the situation.