The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and more than 65 healthcare entities, pharmacy associations, patient, provider, public health and retail organizations on Wednesday signed a letter to Congressional leaders urging Congress to act without delay and safeguard Americans’ access to COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccinations.
Specifically, the groups are urging lawmakers to replenish the Health Resources and Services Administration COVID-19 Uninsured Relief Fund.
Importantly, the potential COVID-19 funding agreement that had been discussed prior to the two-week Congressional recess did not include funding for programs for the uninsured, NACDS said.
The groups stated: “For more than two years, strong, bipartisan Congressional and Administrative alignment has ensured that all Americans have had access to the critical tools necessary to combat the pandemic, regardless of insurance status. However, those efforts risk stalling, prompting us to write today to express our urgent concern around the exhaustion of funding for essential components of our nation’s pandemic response.”
They continued, saying, “The COVID-19 Uninsured Relief Fund ensures access to needed services without cost-sharing — as Congress has long promised — and without it, many of our nation’s most vulnerable communities may lose access to testing, treatments and vaccinations, placing themselves and others at risk of infection.
“What’s more, without assurances to replenish funding, providers across the country are left without recourse to handle the influx of demand from uninsured Americans, forcing them to make decisions about the long-term sustainability of providing COVID-19 tests and services.”
The expiration of funding for these vital initiatives — which promote equitable vaccination, testing and treatment access for the public, including vulnerable, uninsured populations — undermines Americans’ uninterrupted access to critically needed care, the groups said.
“As we continue into the next phase of the pandemic, we must preserve the public health tools that have proven to be effective and protect Americans’ access to the services they’ve relied on throughout this public health crisis .... Our organizations strongly urge Congress to support the Administration’s request to fund all aspects of our national pandemic response immediately and not prematurely dismantle these critical elements,” the groups added.