Orange County Rep. Katie Porter used Thursday’s House hearing on the Trump administration’s lackluster response to the coronavirus to secure a guarantee from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the agency would fund all future testing.
As the Daily Beast reports, Porter first got Health and Human Services official Dr. Robert Kadlec to admit he didn’t know how much it would cost a person labeled “high severity and threat” to get tested for the virus at an emergency room. Porter then tallied all the prices of the associated procedures on a whiteboard and informed Dr. Kadlec that the bill would “conservatively” come to $1,331, adding that such a tab would likely “keep people from getting tested.”
I did the math: a full battery of coronavirus testing costs at minimum $1,331.
I also did the legal research: the Administration has the authority to make testing free for every American TODAY.
I secured a commitment from a high-level Trump official that they’d actually do it. pic.twitter.com/RmolCtmNbG
— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) March 12, 2020
Next, Porter asked CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield if he would like to know who in the US has been infected, and who should be able to afford the tests.
“All of America,” Dr. Redfield answered.
Porter then asked Redfield if he was aware of federal regulations that give the CDC director the power to direct the agency to pay for the treatment and care of individuals “subject to exam and quarantine, isolation, and conditional release.”
When Redfield replied that he was aware, Porter said, “So you’re familiar. Dr. Redfield, will you commit to the CDC right now using that existing authority to pay for diagnostic testing for each and every American regardless of insurance?”
Redfield offered only that the CDC would do “everything to make sure everyone” was treated and that his agency would coordinate with HHS to “operationalize” a payment system, to which Porter countered that such vague assurances weren’t “good enough.”
Porter then challenged the director to make a commitment, saying, “Dr. Redfield, I hope that answer weighs heavily on you. Because it is going to weigh heavily on me and on every American family. You don’t need to do any work to operationalize. You need to make a commitment to the American people so they come in to get tested. You can operationalize the payment structure tomorrow.”
“I think you’re an excellent questioner,” Redfield replied, “so my answer is yes.”
“Everybody in America hear that?” Porter asked. “You are eligible to go get tested for coronavirus and have that covered regardless of insurance. Please, if you believe you have the illness, follow precautions, call first, do everything the CDC and Dr. Fauci—god bless you for guiding Americans in this time. But do not let a lack of insurance worsen this crisis.”
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