Congress must allocate another $22.5 billion in Covid-19 pandemic relief to avoid imminent cuts to treatment and vaccine availability according to White House officials.
Their request on Monday came despite pandemic relief payments of nearly $178 billion made directly to healthcare providers since March 2020. Key Republicans want fuller accounting of the trillions of dollars the administration has already spent on the covid response.
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During an episode of “In The Bubble With Andy Slavitt,” the White House covid coordinator Jeff Zients said: “Right now, we don’t have enough money for fourth [(covid vaccine) doses, if they’re called for”
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“We don’t have the funding if we were to need a variant-specific vaccine in the future” He said.
According to the statement:
- The administration on Tuesday stopped accepting new claims to reimburse providers for COVID testing and treatment.
- On April 5 it will stop accepting vaccination claims for uninsured patients for reimbursement, leaving the uninsured to pay for their own shots.
- The administration will not have funds to cover a fourth booster for “every American.”
- The administration also plans to stop purchasing monoclonal antibody treatments and will run out of supplies to send to states by late May.
- The administration will run out of funds to purchase oral antiviral treatments, such as Paxlovid and molnupiravir.
The statement asked Congress for an additional $22.5 billion in emergency funds to sustain these efforts as lawmakers continue to debate new pandemic relief legislation.
Congressional allocations to healthcare providers
The Provider Relief Fund — created in March 2020 through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — initially allocated $100 billion to reimburse healthcare providers for increased expenses and decreased revenue due to the pandemic. An additional $78 billion was added through later legislation.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made payments to providers in phases. HHS most recently announced it distributed $413 million in a fourth round of phase-four payments to more than 3,600 providers nationwide.
Since November, HHS has distributed nearly $12 billion in relief funds to more than 82,000 providers as part of phase four, which focuses on reimbursing smaller providers.
The program includes bonus payments for those serving Medicaid, Medicare and Children’s Health Insurance Program beneficiaries, HHS said.
Money for boosters running low
Though the Biden administration lacks the funds to provide a fourth coronavirus vaccine dose for everyone, federal officials secured enough doses to cover a fourth shot for Americans 65 years and older as well as the initial regimen for children under 5, should regulators determine those shots are necessary, three officials told the Post on the condition of anonymity.
But the officials said they cannot place advance orders for additional vaccine doses for those in other age groups unless Congress passes a stalled $15-billion funding package.
Jen Kates, Ph.D., an analyst at Kaiser Family Foundation, told the Post the U.S. would need to purchase hundreds of millions of additional doses to ensure that every American could receive four shots, if necessary.
Kates said her team reviewed several alternate scenarios, such as lowering its projection to 70% of Americans who would be vaccinated with four doses, rather than 100%.
Even with that lower target, “there’s not enough” doses already purchased, Kates said, adding that a full analysis would be published later this week.