N.J. Senators Push Bill to Cover Covid-19 Medical Costs

A proposed bill to help Americans with medical costs related to the coronavirus was introduced by New Jersey’s two senators.

Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez’s The Care for COVID-19 Act would require health insurance plans to cover both diagnostic and treatment services related to the virus, with no cost-sharing to the patient. This includes the cost of prescriptions, vaccines, diagnostic tests, and visits to the emergency room, urgent care facilities, or doctor’s office.  

The bill would create a special enrollment period to allow individuals impacted by COVID-19 to enroll in a health plan through the health insurance marketplace.

“For so many Americans, fears of health care costs and potential medical debt are major barriers standing in the way of getting the care they need,” Booker said in a press statement. “During a public health emergency like the one we are experiencing right now, it’s even more imperative that people are able to obtain affordable health care. This common-sense bill will ensure individuals can get the diagnostic and treatment services they need right now.”

Build on Local Efforts

According to the senators, the legislation builds upon efforts in New Jersey and New York, where Gov. Phil Murphy and Andrew Cuomo waived consumer cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing for individuals covered by state-regulated health insurance plans. This federal bill would apply to a broader range of insurance plans, including those offered on the health insurance marketplace.

“The coronavirus does not discriminate based on how much money you make or how good your health care plan is,” Menendez said. “And no person should be in more fear of paying for the health care treatment they need than the potential danger of a virus they may have.”

Additionally, both senators want the White House to answer screening efforts at airports across the country. In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, the lawmakers cite reports of individuals not being screened for COVID-19 at airports, including Newark Liberty, despite traveling from regions with high cases of the virus.

Airport Screenings

“Travelers report not being screened or even asked whether they had traveled to areas with high rates of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days,” the senators wrote. “If we hope to minimize the spread of the novel coronavirus, it is imperative that officials screen travelers entering the country from locations with a significant number of COVID-19 cases.”

Specifically, information is being requested on screenings being performed on individuals traveling to the U.S. from countries reporting high volume of COVID-19 cases, how the results of these screenings are being communicated, and if airport workers are receiving the proper training and equipment to minimize risk associated with the virus. 

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