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Cardin Works to Protect Patients Who Test Negative for COVID-19 from High Medical Bills

April 28th, 2020 by WCBC Radio

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has written to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar urging him to protect uninsured individuals from exorbitant medical bills related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In a letter Friday, Senator Cardin pressed Azar to extend the prudent layperson standard to uninsured individuals who seek emergency medical care for possible symptoms of COVID-19, but then test negative for the disease, and encouraged HHS to instead create a coronavirus emergency special enrollment period for the federal exchange as a way to protect health care providers and uninsured patients from high health costs. If hospitals and health care providers are permitted to utilize funding allocated through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) to cover the costs of uncompensated care, Senator Cardin argues that they should not be permitted to balance bill individuals who seek testing and treatment for COVID-19 but end up having a non-related illness. Senator Cardin was responsible for formalizing the prudent layperson standard as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

 

“During this public health emergency, all patients, whether insured or uninsured, must be able to get the services they need, when they need them,” said Cardin. “This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, as patients who may have been exposed to the virus and develop symptoms must immediately seek appropriate medical care.  Patients should not be forced to act as their own doctors and second-guess themselves when they truly believe that they are having a medical emergency.”

 

This letter follows multiple reports that in awarding the remainder of funding through PHSSEF, HHS will use the fund meant for frontline health care providers to cover the costs of uncompensated care for uninsured individuals instead of creating a coronavirus emergency special enrollment period for HealthCare.gov. Cardin led the Maryland Congressional delegation in announcing the first round of awards through PHSSEF and calling on future allocations from the fund to be more closely targeted to hotspots and include health care providers who treat vulnerable and low-income populations.

 

In response to the pandemic, the Maryland Health Connection opened a new special enrollment period for uninsured Marylanders through June 15th. So far, more than 22,300 people have signed up for health coverage through the special enrollment period and more than 88 percent have qualified for Medicaid or received financial assistance to lower the cost of their health plans. Additional information on how to obtain coverage may be found here.

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