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As Congress debates COVID-19 funding, it’s Virginia’s uninsured who are most at risk

Nurse Valarie Tyree gives a man a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during “Senior Weekend”...
Nurse Valarie Tyree gives a man a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during “Senior Weekend” at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Va., Feb. 2, 2021. Virginia officials are bracing for the loss of federal funding for COVID-19 treatment and testing for the uninsured.(Parker Michels-Boyce/ For the Virginia Mercury)
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 4:05 PM EDT
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Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal program has reimbursed more than $99 million to Virginia providers for offering testing and treatment to uninsured patients.

But state health officials said they were notified this week that the program, administered by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration had run out of money, bringing those reimbursements to a sudden halt. Repayment for claims related to testing and treatment, including monoclonal antibodies and oral antivirals, ended Tuesday, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Reimbursements for administering vaccinations will end on April 5.

The funding has supported care for the roughly 648,000 Virginians without health insurance, a group that’s particularly likely to face financial vulnerabilities or medical comorbidities that make them especially susceptible to the virus, experts say.

The news came as a shock to Virginia’s safety net providers amid an ongoing federal debate over additional COVID-19 spending. Earlier this month, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stripped $15.6 billion in emergency aid from a larger funding package as Republicans demanded a closer inspection of how previous COVID dollars had been spent, The New York Times reported. 

With no agreement on the horizon, both state and local health officials are still working to determine how the deadlock will affect pandemic management.

“I’m not aware that there was much advance notice of this,” said Dr. Laurie Forlano, VDH’s deputy commissioner for population health. “We’re still trying to gather information and assess potential impact and think about how we might need to right-size our budget accordingly.”

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.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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