The $10 Billion compromise between Senate Democrats and Republicans for COVID funding is desperately needed given the more transmissible Omicron sub-type BA.2 is becoming the dominant strain in the U.S. However, the passage of the funds has hit a snag right before the Senate takes a two-week recess.
Politico reports Senate Republicans successfully blocked a procedural vote, 47-52, leaving Democrats shy of the 60 votes needed to pass the measure. Senate Republicans say they want a vote on an amendment that would keep the Title 42 border restrictions in place, which allows for limits on immigration during the pandemic.
“I don’t think there are probably 10 Republican votes at the moment for a process that doesn’t at least include an amendment vote on Title 42, perhaps among other amendments,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), McConnell’s top deputy. He said many Republicans don’t want to pass the bill anyway, so they’ll demand amendment votes as a price to move forward: “Our members are pretty dug in.”
If a breakthrough doesn’t occur, it’s looking as though the passage of the money will not happen until late April or even May–that means no money for vaccines, therapeutics, and testing. The Biden administration is planning to end Title 42 restrictions on May 23rd. Democrats believe they have already conceited enough, given that $5 Billion of global vaccination funds have been stripped from the bill.
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) is among others like Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona, and Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) who are protesting the Biden administration’s move, citing the lack of a plan.
“It’s clear to me after my discussions with the White House and DHS, that there is not a plan in place on how to deal with the lifting of Title 42,” Kelly said in an interview. “I’m concerned with folks on the Southern border in my state and other states, also the health and safety of the migrants.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki warned Congress of the “consequences” of not moving quickly to get the money through chambers.
“The program that reimbursed doctors, pharmacists and other providers for vaccinating the uninsured had to end today due to a lack of funds. America’s supply of monoclonal antibodies that are effective at keeping people out of the hospital will run out as soon as late May. Our test manufacturing capacity will begin ramping down at the end of June,” she said, adding the Senate vote is “a step backward for our ability to respond to this virus.”
The lack of COVID funds is hitting the pockets of the uninsured hard already. ABC News speaks to how costly one PCR test can be.
Quest Diagnostics, one of the largest testing companies in the country, told ABC News that patients who are not on Medicare, Medicaid or a private health plan will now be charged $125 dollars ($119 and a $6 physician fee) when using one of its QuestDirect PCR tests either by ordering a kit online or visiting one of the 1,500 Quest or major retail locations that administer the tests, such as Walmart or Giant Eagle.
Uninsured patients who want or need a COVID-19 test and get it at one of Northwell’s GoHealth Urgent Care clinic sites will now be charged between $120 and $195 for a PCR test, in addition to external lab fees accrued for the test’s processing.