Sánchez, Cárdenas, Bennet Introduce Bicameral Bill to Expand Medicaid Coverage for COVID-19 Treatment, Vaccines

February 8, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representatives Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA) and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) introduced the Stronger Medicaid Response to the COVID–19 Pandemic Act. This legislation would allow Medicaid programs to pay for prevention and treatment, hospitalization, vaccinations, and other related services for uninsured individuals with COVID-19. The bill builds on previous legislation led by Reps. Sánchez and Cárdenas to provide COVID-19 testing for uninsured individuals. U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced the Senate companion bill.

“Denying access to lifesaving treatment because of immigration or insurance status is inhumane, and it puts everyone at risk. This bill will help many, including essential workers who are putting themselves at risk every day to get our communities and economy through this pandemic,” said Congresswoman Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA). “I am proud to reintroduce legislation with Representative Cárdenas to ensure that everyone in our county has equal access to free COVID-19 treatment and vaccine. Ensuring equitable access during the COVID-19 pandemic will save lives – plain and simple.”

“Providing access to healthcare during this national health emergency is not only the morally right thing to do, but it is also good policy,” said Congressman Cárdenas (D-CA). “The more we do to ensure people have access to testing and medical care, the greater our chances are of containing the virus and getting America back to work. Our number one priority should be to keep American families safe. If we truly want to ‘build back better’, we must contain the virus, and that starts by ensuring anyone who needs medical care gets it.”

“For millions of Americans over the last year, the devastating news of a job loss has also meant facing the reality of losing their health insurance. We cannot let individuals and families lose access to care during the worst public health crisis in a century because of the loss of a job, or other circumstances that are out of their control,” said Senator Bennet (D-CO). “Our legislation would ensure anyone who has experienced job loss and lost their health coverage during the pandemic is able to receive COVID-19 treatment through Medicaid.”

“Far too many people in Hawaii and across the country have faced the effects of the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, that has meant losing their job and the health coverage that comes with it,” said Senator Hirono (D-HI). “This legislation will make sure that everyone in our country can access COVID-19 testing and treatment, regardless of their immigration, employment, or insurance status. Our communities are stronger when we are all healthy.”

“As we battle this devastating public health crisis, no one should be denied lifesaving care because they can’t afford it. Health care affordability was a serious issue in our country before the pandemic hit, but now millions of families are struggling to afford the COVID treatments they need – especially uninsured Americans,” said Senator Shaheen (D-NH). “That’s why we have reintroduced this bill to expand coverage for COVID-19 treatments for uninsured Americans through Medicaid, with federal funding to reimburse states for extra costs. Making health care as accessible as possible must be our top priority, especially amid this deadly pandemic.”

“Every American deserves a vaccine or treatment against COVID-19, regardless of cost,” said Senator Blumenthal (D-CT). “As more Americans are unemployed, and therefore uninsured, we must assure that no one is left behind. It’s vital to all of our health.”

"If we truly want to help Americans during the pandemic then we need an equitable response where COVID-19 related treatment is available to everyone, including uninsured individuals," said Senator Smith (D-MN). "A historic number of people have lost their jobs during the pandemic, and with that their health insurance. This legislation will help them get COVID-19 treatment without worrying if they can afford it. I am excited to keep working with my colleagues and the Biden Administration to help us recover from this pandemic and get our economy back on track.”

More than 77 million individuals are enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), providing essential coverage for health care services, including primary and preventive care, mental and behavioral health care, and chronic illness treatment. Millions of American lost their employer-based health coverage since the beginning of the pandemic which led to an increase in Medicaid enrollment. As individuals lost both their health coverage and income, Medicaid enrollment increased by 11.3% between March and September of 2020.

The bill is supported by the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, Families USA, The Arc of the United States, Epilepsy Foundation, National Hispanic Medical Association, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, National Immigration Law Center, National Health Law Program, and People’s Health Clinic.

A version of this bill was included in the Heroes Act and the updated Heroes Act, which both passed the House of Representatives in the last Congress.