Congress Must Guarantee Health Coverage During Pandemic

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Note: U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today unveiled the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act, which would eliminate all out-of-pocket health costs for every person during the COVID-19 crisis.

It should be common sense that, amid the worst acute public health crisis in a century, everyone needs guaranteed access to health care.

But that’s not how things work under America’s system. Instead, because health insurance is tied to employment, as millions of Americans are losing their jobs due to the pandemic, they are also losing their health care.

The Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act responds to this outrage with common sense and compassion. It would guarantee all Americans the care they need and, during the pandemic, eliminate all insurance out-of-pocket costs.

It is a stain on the country that so many Americans say they would avoid seeking care if they thought they had COVID-19 due to worries about financial burdens. This legislation says that is unconscionable – and unnecessary: The government simply can pay (at Medicare reimbursement rates) for those who don’t have insurance and cover the out-of-pocket costs of those who do.

We applaud Sen. Sanders and Reps. Jayapal and Bass for introducing this crucial legislation.