Existing funds to battle the coronavirus are running out, and the White House has been asking Congress for months to include billions of dollars for testing, vaccines, and treatments in the omnibus spending package that just passed the Senate. But the massive $1.7-trillion federal budget bill includes no mention of federal Covid funding.
In June, Joe Biden’s administration began using funds previously earmarked for coronavirus tests and protective equipment to buy more antiviral pills and vaccines. Eventually, that money will run out, too. Once government funding ends, paying for Covid testing, vaccines, and treatments will be bounced back to health insurance companies, which will make it “incredibly hard to deal with COVID, to get tested for it, to get treated,” Dr. Kavita Patel, a primary care doctor in Washington, told Marketplace.
For a few years, the coronavirus forced the U.S. government and health care system to actually work. Testing centers dotted street corners; treatments were free; and vaccines were smoothly rolled out on a massive scale. But when government funding dries up, that is all going to change for the worse.
More than 27 million Americans did not have health insurance in 2021, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, meaning they and anyone else who has since lost coverage would have to pay out of pocket for Covid supplies. And many of them will likely be unable to afford to do so. As a result, more people are likely to forgo getting the latest booster shot or even getting tested, raising the probability of increased community spread and the likelihood of new variants emerging.