U.S. Senator Smith Leads Democratic Senate Colleagues in Introducing Bill to Expand Free Coronavirus Testing to People on Private Insurance, in Medicare, Medicaid and the Uninsured

WASHINGTON, D.C. [03/12/20]—Today, Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) led a number of her Democratic Senate colleagues in introducing the Free COVID-19 Testing Act, which would expand free tests to confirm coronavirus (COVID-19) infections. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) was an original cosponsor of the bill. The legislation was also led by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The Free COVID-19 Testing Act would waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and related health care services for individuals enrolled in private health plans, Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, CHIP, TRICARE, VA as well as for federal civilians, American Indians and Alaska Natives. Private insurers would be barred from imposing limits like prior authorization for testing. For uninsured individuals, this legislation would cover the cost of lab fees, and states would have the option and new incentives to cover COVID-19 diagnostic testing and related health care services through their Medicaid programs.

In addition to Sens. Smith, Klobuchar, Peters, Schumer, Murray, and Wyden, this legislation is also supported by Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Angus King (I-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

“Congress’ first and foremost responsibility is to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep people safe during this coronavirus outbreak, and that means making more test kits available and making sure that Americans don’t have to choose between taking a test or forgoing it because they can’t afford it,” said Sen. Smith. “I am grateful to Minnesota insurance companies who have said that they will make sure that everyone who can get a test will get one free of charge, and we need to grant that same assurance to people across the country, including those on Medicare and Medicaid, and the those who do not have insurance. This legislation should be passed immediately.”

“As we work to address the coronavirus pandemic, my top priority is protecting the health of Michiganders. We must take aggressive action, including by expanding access to free coronavirus testing,” said Sen. Peters. “Costs should never be a barrier to the testing that will help us combat this virus. The Senate should act swiftly and pass our Free COVID-19 Testing Act.”

“Senate Democrats are committed to making sure that everyone can access the care they need during this coronavirus outbreak – and that means guaranteeing that no American is forced to go without this potentially life-saving test over cost,” said Leader Schumer. “It is not only morally wrong if people are forced to forgo testing because they can’t afford it, but also a serious risk to everyone in their community. Time is of the essence—this legislation must be passed without delay.”

“We need to make sure everyone that needs to get tested for the novel coronavirus can do so without being charged a dime, no matter how they are insured, or whether they are insured,” said Sen. Murray. “Right now it is critical we stop the spread of this virus so we can protect vulnerable people and prevent a spike of cases from overburdening our health care providers on the frontlines. We need to pass this legislation immediately, because we can’t address this virus effectively if people are afraid getting tested means getting a medical bill they can’t afford.”

“Adequate testing for COVID-19 is a critical step to stem the tide of the pandemic,” said Sen. Wyden. “Beyond increasing the availability of the test, it needs to be free so Americans don’t have to choose between getting tested or putting food on the table for their loved ones. People need to know that they can walk into their health provider without fear of getting a big medical bill for the test.”

You can access text of the bill here.