The Trump administration has said it intends to pay providers treating coronavirus patients at ‘Medicare rates’ and prohibit additional billing – in effect, testing a flagship progressive proposal for nationalized healthcare.
“We will send money to providers through the same mechanism used for testing,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters on Friday, referring to the $100 billion in funds earmarked for healthcare providers in the CARES stimulus act.
The government will reimburse any patients with Covid-19 that lack health insurance at Medicare rates, and will ban them from “balance-billing” those patients, Azar added, noting that this will give the millions of newly unemployed – and therefore uninsured – Americans a better deal than falling back on “Obamacare” insurance exchanges.
Rather than open the ACA exchanges, Trump & Alex Azar just announced another plan. People without insurance can get cared for for free. And hospitals would get paid for at Medicare rates.Wish there was a phrase for that.
— Andy Slavitt @ 🏡 (@ASlavitt) April 3, 2020
This did not escape the attention of President Barack Obama’s former healthcare czar Andy Slavitt, who hinted that this basically amounted to “Medicare for all” – a proposal for single-payer healthcare championed by Senator Bernie Sanders as part of his bid for the Democrat presidential nomination.
Azar’s announcement amounts to a field test of Sanders’s proposal, at a time when the US economy has been crippled by the weeks-long shutdown ordered as a measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, mainstream Democrats – such as the establishment favorite Joe Biden and 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton – have clamored for the government to reopen Obamacare exchanges, condemning Trump for not doing so, only to get “outflanked from the left” by the White House.
Trump just announced what amounts to a Medicare-for-All policy for uninsured COVID-19 patients. Congrats to Hillary Clinton & centrist Democrats for again letting Donald Trump outflank you from the left: https://t.co/ULJ5XJSETp
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) April 3, 2020
The CARES Act is an ambitious $2.2 trillion package passed by Congress last week, intended to deal with the pandemic but also offset the economic fallout of the measures imposed to combat its spread. As of Friday, the US has registered almost 274,000 cases of Covid-19, with just over 7,000 deaths.
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