Federal government will pay for COVID-19 treatment for uninsured, HHS secretary says

WASHINGTON -- The federal government will use a portion of funds provided by Congressional relief acts to cover coronavirus testing and treatment for the uninsured, United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said Friday.

Funding from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act will be used to cover testing and other diagnostic services for the uninsured, Azar explained during the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing.

A portion of the $100 billion provided by the CARES Act will be used to reimburse providers for coronavirus-related treatment costs for the uninsured. Providers will be reimbursed at Medicare rates and will be unable to bill an uninsured patient for the balance of their care, according to Azar.

"This should alleviate any concern uninsured Americans may have about seeking the coronavirus treatment," President Donald Trump said Friday.

The Trump administration has refused to reopen healthcare.gov to allow all uninsured Americans to buy coverage through the government marketplace, though more than a million people who have lost their jobs are expected to swamp the Affordable Care Act's health insurance marketplaces in the coming months.

RELATED: How is coronavirus spread? Symptoms, prevention, and how to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak

The health insurance markets are a backbone of the Obama-era law that President Donald Trump has tried to demolish. They are now seen as a key option to help protect people from devastating medical bills while they search for another job and new coverage.

Nearly 10 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the final two weeks of March, far exceeding the figure for any corresponding period on record.

Researchers say a hospital stay of several days could cost well over $20,000 depending on factors like where the patient lives and how much time is spent in an intensive care unit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.