Pascrell, Peters, House Colleagues Demand Continued Test Coverage for Medicare Beneficiaries
Members call on Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to maintain coverage of at-home COVID testing after end of health emergency
Washington, DC, February 17, 2023
U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and Scott H. Peters (D-CA-50) are leading a federal effort to protect Medicare recipients from new medical costs. Their letter signed by 32 House members urges the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to continue covering the costs of at-home COVID-19 tests for beneficiaries. Medicare coverage of these costs is slated to terminate along with the public health emergency (PHE) declaration on May 11, 2023.
“We understand that CMS’s demonstration program to cover at-home tests is slated to end along with the PHE. Yet, the need for readily accessible, at-home COVID-19 tests will not go away when the PHE ends,” the Members wrote. “As new strains continue to emerge, we must ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have access to the diagnostic tools they’ve come to rely on.
“We write to ask CMS to provide our offices with additional information on its authority and plans to potentially extend this demonstration program beyond the PHE,” the Members conclude.
The full text of the Members’ letter to CMS is provided below.
February 13, 2023
The Honorable Chiquita Brooks-LaSure
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C. 20201
Dear Administrator Brooks-LaSure:
We commend the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for taking the important step of covering at-home COVID-19 diagnostic test at no-cost to beneficiaries through a demonstration program. In doing so, CMS has helped ensure Medicare beneficiaries have access to the same benefits as those with private insurance. The at-home COVID-19 diagnostic testing program has improved the health and wellbeing of Medicare beneficiaries around the country. As CMS determines which programs created during the public health emergency (PHE) should be maintained, we hope CMS will consider continuing this valuable demonstration program beyond the PHE.
We appreciate that CMS’s hard work has protected the lives of countless older and disabled adults. Given that the PHE is currently poised to end in the coming months we find ourselves at an important inflection point. Seniors will continue to live with the real threat of COVID-19, without many of the COVID-19 era PHE protections.
At-home diagnostic tests play an important role in helping identify and isolate cases of COVID-19. These tests help prevent further spread by allowing individuals to test themselves when they first present symptoms or are alerted to a possible exposure. These tests have important implications for public health, as millions of Americans now routinely test themselves before going into crowded social settings or seeing a relative who is particularly at-risk for severe disease. Easy access to testing with quick results has undoubtably prevented the spread of COVID-19 and enable Americans to resume normal life.
Ending Medicare coverage for at-home COVID-19 tests could undo much of this progress and make it harder for Medicare beneficiaries to obtain accurate and timely information about their health. For example, without coverage under Medicare, many older Americans will not be able to afford to pay out-of-pocket for these critical tests.
We understand that CMS’s demonstration program to cover at-home tests is slated to end along with the PHE. Yet, the need for readily accessible, at-home COVID-19 tests will not go away when the PHE ends. As new strains continue to emerge, we must ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have access to the diagnostic tools they’ve come to rely on.
We write to ask CMS to provide our offices with additional information on its authority and plans to potentially extend this demonstration program beyond the PHE.
Thank you again for your work to improve the lives of older Americans across this country. We look forward to continuing to work together to alleviate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and provide Medicare beneficiaries with what they need to stay healthy.