Arkansas health care providers are worried after news that a federal program that covers the costs of covid-19 treatments for uninsured patients will be ending within the next couple of weeks.
Pharmacists, primary care physicians and hospitals, received notice last week from the Health Resources and Services Administration that its Covid-19 Uninsured Program is running out of funds after Congress declined to approve an additional $15 billion in pandemic relief spending sought by the Biden administration.
Health care providers in Arkansas say the closure of the program raises several concerns. Without funding to reimburse costs for administering vaccines, covid-19 tests and treatments — such as monoclonal antibodies and antiviral medications — some providers will stop offering such services to people who do not have insurance.
About 8.5% of Arkansans, or roughly 254,000, are not insured, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s most recent data compiled last year.
Should another wave hit the state, those people could become sicker and once again overwhelm emergency departments and intensive care units in hospitals already facing staffing shortages and exhausted nurses and doctors.
For vaccine administration, UAMS bills insurance providers, including the Health Resources and Services Administration, at $46 per dose, meaning the hospital and its clinics should be reimbursed about $1.1 million for those given to patients without health insurance allowing them to recoup a part of the cost to staff and supply vaccine clinics.
The small independent pharmacies, which served at the vanguard of testing and vaccination, will also have to limit their services to the uninsured. For them the losses from having to order supplies and staff they would not otherwise have will be even more severe.
Read the full article from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette here.