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President Trump considers using natural disaster fund to treat uninsured coronavirus patients


Otherwise hospitals will have to pay the bill

Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Donald Trump is considering ways to assist uninsured coronavirus patients with the cost of testing and treatment, including potential use of a natural disaster fund to cover those costs, according to The Wall Street Journal.

What's the issue?

As coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, spreads throughout the United States, an essential part of the containment effort is for people who may be infected to have access to testing or treatment. However, there are approximately 27 million people without health insurance, and those people may be reluctant to seek medical care due to the high cost.

This may be especially true for people who feel their symptoms are manageable, which could be the case with the coronavirus since it often presents in patients with symptoms similar to a cold or flu, but doesn't respond to the medications used to treat those ailments.

If people are walking around with coronavirus without knowing it, the spread will be difficult or impossible to contain.

What has Trump said about it?

"Well, we're going to look at the uninsured because they have a big problem," President Trump said Tuesday. "And we're going to look at the uninsured people that — you know, this came — it was a surprise to all of us. It just happened. It shows what can happen in life. But we're going to be looking at the uninsured and see if we can help them out."

How might the government help?

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration is considering the use of the National Disaster Medical System reimbursement program to cover costs for uninsured coronavirus patients. From the Journal:

In natural disasters such as hurricanes, hospitals and medical facilities can be reimbursed under a federal program that pays them about 110% of Medicare rates for treating patients such as those evacuated from hard-hit areas.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been in discussions about using that program to pay providers who treat uninsured patients with coronavirus, the person (a source familiar with the conversations) said.

What's the status of coronavirus in the U.S.?

There are at least 130 known cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., and nine people have died. All of the deaths occurred in Washington state, and eight of them occurred in the same county.

There is now evidence of community spread of the virus in several states.

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