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Medicare Crisis Program: We Need Immediate Action Now

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Note: U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) today unveiled the Medicare Crisis Program Proposal, which would expand Medicare to Americans who lose their jobs due to the pandemic. It also would expand Medicaid eligibility. View a list of organizations that endorsed the proposal here

Just when we need it the most, America’s for-profit health insurance system is giving us its worst. Because our system makes health care coverage dependent on employment status, as millions of Americans lose their jobs due to the worst acute health crisis in America in the past century, they and their families also are losing their insurance coverage.

Could there be any harsher indictment of our current system than this perverse reality?

Meanwhile, millions of Americans who do have insurance are finding that if they need treatment for coronavirus-related illness, they are going to be hit with demands for cost-sharing, which many simply can’t afford.

We would have none of these problems if we had a Medicare for All system, but for right now, we need an immediate solution. The Medicare Crisis Program Act is that solution. The bill would build on the most effective and efficient part of our health care system – Medicare – to ensure everyone has access to the health care they need amid the pandemic.

The bill also would expand Medicaid to cover those who were uninsured before the crisis. In addition, it would prohibit private insurance companies’ heinous out-of-pocket costs– designed to deter access to care – at least as applied to COVID-19 testing and treatment.

Congress should move for immediate passage of the Medicare Crisis Program Act. At the very least, everybody must be guaranteed health care amid a national health emergency, without fear of facing bankruptcy or unmanageable bills.