While plotting a quicker wind-down of its broader Covid pandemic response, the Biden administration is mulling a plan to keep vaccines, tests, and treatments free for the uninsured into 2024.
The plan aims to calm down the increased fears that once the government exhausts its ability to purchase vaccines and treatments and shifts responsibility for distributing them to the private market, the most vulnerable Americans could be left without access to Covid care.
As data show, there are roughly 30 million adults in the US without coverage that could be forced to pay out of pocket for Covid treatments and drugs that can cost hundreds of dollars per dose.
Shared by four people with knowledge of the matter, the initiative has come to the fore at a time when patient groups seek last-minute changes to the Biden administration’s plans for addressing the pandemic after the public health emergency ends in May as planned.
As one senior administration official noted, the government is well aware that the end of the Covid public health emergency is not the end of Covid, which remains a public health priority, or its work on assisting people that will still need these treatments.
Even after the PHE’s May expiration, most Americans would still be able to get vaccines and treatments through private health insurers or federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
These programs would be newly responsible for negotiating their own supply deals with Covid drugmakers while the free vaccinations for uninsured children will continue to be provided by a separate preexisting federal program.
On top of that, the administration doesn’t plan to shift responsibility for vaccines and treatments to the private market until late summer at the earliest, giving people time to navigate the handover.
Preserving widespread access to Covid prevention and treatment tools will rank among the most pressing political and policy challenges for the administration that has made vaccines and treatments the centerpiece of its pandemic response.