NEW YORK – A group of Democratic senators issued on Tuesday a letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services asking it to continue providing free at-home COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries following the end of the public health emergency.
While the PHE was originally scheduled to end May 11, the Senate last week passed a bill to end it before then and is awaiting President Joe Biden's signature.
In the letter, which was led by Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the senators raised concerns that ending coverage for tests with the end of the PHE could hamper Medicare beneficiaries' access to COVID-19 testing and argued that "without coverage under Medicare, many older Americans will not be able to afford to pay out-of-pocket for these critical tests and simply won’t test."
The senators also noted that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has not yet completed its ongoing demonstration of its program covering at-home testing and argued against ending the demonstration before its completion. They suggested that CMS has authority under Section 402 of the Social Security Amendments of 1972 to continue to waive payments for at-home COVID-19 tests until the completion of the demonstration and asked HHS for "information on its authority under Section 402 to conduct this demonstration and any basis for the belief that Section 402 does not provide the authority to continue the demonstration, as well as plans to potentially continue coverage of at-home COVID-19 diagnostic tests beyond the end of the PHE."
The senators requested a staff level meeting with HHS so they can be briefed on the administration's plans to "potentially continue coverage of at-home COVID-19 diagnostic tests beyond the PHE."