Biden administration blames Congress for imminent end of free COVID tests program

The Biden administration will wind down its program to ship Americans free at-home COVID-19 tests this week, blaming Congress for failing to fund additional rounds of shipments.

Americans who’ve but to request all 16 of their free tests by means of the federal portal have till Friday to put their orders.

“Ordering through this program will be suspended on Friday, September 2 because Congress hasn’t provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s stockpile of tests,” the Department of Health and Human Services says on the web page.

Since ordering opened up in May for a 3rd spherical of free COVID-19 tests, the U.S. Postal Service has been permitting households throughout the nation to request as much as three orders of free tests, for a complete of 16 tests.

The Biden administration additionally opened up orders in June for at-home tests particularly designed to work with a smartphone application accessible for Americans who’re blind or have restricted imaginative and prescient.

However, citing “a significant increase in demand” for the tests, the division says these accessible tests are too now “temporarily out of stock.”

Back in January, the Biden administration had contracted for as much as 500 million free at-home tests to be shipped nationwide from a number of producers.

A request from the White House to fund this and different persevering with COVID-19 response efforts has been stalled for months in Congress, prompting warnings from federal well being officers of “significantly diminished domestic testing capacity” as producers shutter their provide traces.

Other federal efforts to cover free COVID-19 testing are additionally now winding down.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Operation Expanded Testing, which supplied free lab tests to locations like faculties and shelters, will cease providing the service at the end of the year. A program from the Health Resources and Services Administration to reimburse suppliers for giving testing to uninsured Americans lapsed in March, “due to a lack of sufficient funds.”

For folks with personal insurance coverage or Medicare Part B protection, plans are still required to cover as much as eight tests per thirty days by means of the end of the general public well being emergency. The present declaration is because of expire in October, although the Biden administration is anticipated to resume the emergency for at the very least one other few months past that date.

A rising share of Americans have turned to at-home speedy tests, which the Food and Drug Administration now says wants as much as three separate tests to rule out some SARS-CoV-2 infections. A feared winter surge of the virus might result in greater than one million hospitalizations and 181,000 deaths within the worst-case situation, modelers say.

But within the wake of little motion on Capitol Hill in the direction of funding the Biden administration’s COVID-19 efforts, White House officers say they’ve begun working to transition the response to the personal market.

Government distribution of an COVID-19 antibody drug – Eli Lilly’s bebtelovimab – is already ending this month, after the FDA just lately amended its emergency use authorization to permit the remedy to be bought commercially.

“One of the things we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about in the last many months, and we’re going to continue this work, and you’ll hear more from the administration on this, is getting us out of that acute emergency phase where the U.S. government is buying the vaccines, buying the treatments, buying the diagnostic tests,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s prime COVID-19 official, instructed an event hosted by the Chamber of Commerce Foundation earlier this month.

Healthcare business officers say early formal talks are anticipated to start this week with the Biden administration on the subject.

“We need to get out of that business over the long run,” Jha mentioned.

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