New Jersey Congressman Pressuring Trump Administration on Response to Coronavirus

As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the U.S., Rep. Bill Pascrell and Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker are leaning on Trump Administration officials to be more aggressive.

Rep. Pascrell called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate those offering deceptive treatments for the coronavirus, citing the danger of evangelist James Bakker hawking a “cure.” 

“During his web show and on his website, televangelist James Bakker has repeatedly made misleading claims that a nanosilver formula product he sells, Optivida Silver Sol, successfully treats novel coronavirus and cures venereal disease among a plethora of preposterous assertions by Bakker that threaten the public health,” stated Rep. Pascrell in a letter to FTC and FDA.

Cure Claims

A prominent televangelist, Bakker was imprisoned for nearly five years after being convicted in federal court for mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy, and defrauding his followers. Bakker has claimed the Optivida Silver Sol product he sells can cure viruses, wound and skin conditions, anti-inflammatory, sinus infections and bronchitis. 

“As our country faces the enormous and growing threat of novel coronavirus, I urge the FDA and FTC to use the ample tools at your disposal to exercise proper regulatory oversight of these and any unproven products that make blatantly fraudulent claims which could cause public panic,” said Pascrell.

Pascrell colleagues in the upper house want Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to take immediate action to address the ways they believe the Trump Administration’s health care policy has undermined the U.S. preparedness for and ability to respond to the outbreak.

Large Bills

Booker and Menendez joined their Senate Democratic Caucus in a letter wanting patients who have potentially been exposed to the virus should be able to seek appropriate medical care without being deterred by the risk of large bills.  

“We are deeply concerned both by your refusal to commit that a potential vaccine for coronavirus will be affordable to anyone who needs it, and this Administration’s numerous policies that make it harder for patients to get care during an outbreak,” the letter states. 

The Senators urged HHS to prioritize our nation’s public health by:

  • Commiting to ensuring any future coronavirus vaccine is affordable for all;
  • Rescinding the junk plan rule. The Trump Administration has expanded and promoted junk plans that discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions and don’t cover essential health benefits like hospital care, emergency care, laboratory services or preventive services; 
  • Withdrawing the 1332 waiver guidance which encourages states to apply for waivers allowing for the sale of coverage not meeting consumer protections for comprehensiveness and affordability. Reducing the comprehensiveness of coverage could leave patients paying bills for necessary care, like tests or vaccines; and
  • Stop working to undermine Medicaid by promoting barriers like work requirements. Medicaid is crucial in responding to public health crises, but the Trump Administration’s  work requirements has led to patients being kicked off the program and losing access to health care.

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