LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — One of the biggest problems facing the United States in the growing coronavirus pandemic is the lack of testing, but Orange County Representative Katie Porter fought Thursday to change that — pressing the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to making those tests free.
“We have a $1,331 expense, conservatively, just for testing for coronavirus,” Porter said.
The congresswoman used a whiteboard to list the estimated out-of-pocket costs for someone just to get tested for coronavirus. These costs included a complete blood count test, a full metabolic panel, testing for both Flu A and B and an emergency room visit with isolation for high-risk patients.
Using this information, she drilled CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield to use the authority granted to him by law to cover the cost of testing for any American who needs it.
“Dr. Redfield, you don’t need to do any work to operationalize,” Porter said after Redfield declined to give a straight answer multiple times. “You need to make a commitment to the American people so they come in to get tested. You can operationalize the payment structure tomorrow.”
Redfield relented, stating the Porter was an “excellent questioner.”
“So, my answer is yes,” he said.
And it was just the answer Porter wanted.
“Excellent,” she said. “Everybody in America, hear that. You are eligible to go get tested for coronavirus and have that covered regardless of insurance.”
I did the math: a full battery of coronavirus testing costs at minimum $1,331.
I also did the legal research: the Administration has the authority to make testing free for every American TODAY.
I secured a commitment from a high-level Trump official that they’d actually do it. pic.twitter.com/RmolCtmNbG
— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) March 12, 2020
Porter said she tried a week ago to get the payments authorized so people would not have to worry about the cost, but was finally able to face the director in person Thursday.
“And I had to keep pressing to get him to finally commit that yes, coronavirus testing would be covered regardless of insurance,” she said.
She said many Americans put off medical treatment due to financial concerns, so this was a critical step to get more people to go get tested. She also said this goes beyond what President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that insurance companies would waive all copays in relation to COVID-19 testing and treatment.
“Insurers are agreeing to waive maby $5 or $10, but they’re not agreeing to waive the very high amounts that maybe someone’s out-of-pocket deductible before the insurance kicks in at all,” Porter said.
And while the CDC has now agreed to free testing, she said the center still needed to commit to making the treatments that follow free as well.