- The White House is running out of money to fund its pandemic response and stopped accepting new claims to reimburse providers for COVID-19 testing and treatment Tuesday, according to a statement. On April 5 it will stop accepting vaccination claims for uninsured patients for reimbursement.
- Dwindling funds mean the administration will face challenges securing enough booster doses if another shot is recommended, and the White House also plans to stop purchasing monoclonal antibody treatments and will run out of supplies to send to states by late May, according to the statement.
- The Biden administration is asking Congress for an additional $22.5 billion in emergency funds to sustain those efforts as lawmakers wrangle over new pandemic relief legislation.
Federal relief funds helped prop up struggling providers throughout the pandemic, offsetting heightened expenses and decreased revenues as they overhauled their operations and treated patients during various waves.
But they'll no longer be reimbursed for treating, testing and vaccinating uninsured patients, "forcing providers to either absorb the cost or turn away people who are uninsured, increasing the disparity in access to critically needed health care and putting additional burdens on safety net providers," the White House said in its statement.
It's now asking for $22.5 billion immediately to ensure those programs can continue running even as COVID-19 cases trend downward in the U.S. Cases are currently rising abroad though and could lead to another virus wave in the U.S. within the next few months, according to the White House.
"Waiting to provide funding once we're in a surge will be too late," the statement said.
Congress has been battling for months over new COVID-19 relief legislation as the pandemic stretches into another year, and the White House warned of other rollbacks in its response if more funding isn't made available soon.
It's running out of vaccines and won't be able to purchase enough for all Americans if regulators recommend another booster dose, and it won't have the resources if a variant-specific booster is needed, according to the statement.
It won't be able to purchase monoclonal antibody treatments anymore either, and is cutting state allocations by more than 30% while expecting supplies to dry up completely by late May.
Testing capacity will also be diminished along with surveillance programs, "leaving us less able to detect the next variant," the statement said.
Federal relief funds throughout the pandemic have helped bolster the national response and provided support to healthcare providers as they work on the front lines.
The Provider Relief Fund was created in March 2020 through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and initially allocated $100 billion to reimburse healthcare providers for increased expenses and decreased revenue due to the pandemic. An additional $78 billion was added through later legislation.
Various phases of payments have been made to providers. HHS most recently announced it was distributing $413 million in a fourth round of phase four payments to more than 3,600 providers nationwide Tuesday.
Since November it has distributed nearly $12 billion in relief funds to more than 82,000 providers through its fourth phase of allotments, which focuses on reimbursing smaller providers and includes bonus payments for those serving Medicaid, Medicare and CHIP beneficiaries, according to a release from the agency.