The Trump Administration said it would pay hospitals to cover the cost of Covid-19 treatment for the uninsured. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced the plans on Friday, saying the administration would reimburse providers using funds from the $2 trillion stimulus bill that passed last week.

Azar said health systems will be reimbursed at Medicare rates. They would be paid using a portion of the $100 billion carved out from the CARES Act specifically to reimburse hospitals for expenses related to the pandemic. There’s one condition: to receive the funds, they cannot balance bill patients their care, a process that’s better known as “surprise billing.”

Azar said the funds would be distributed to healthcare providers using the same mechanism that the administration used to cover the cost of Covid-19 tests for the uninsured. They had said they would disburse $1 billion for testing from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Azar added that the administration would soon have more specifics on how the rest of the $100 billion would go to healthcare providers.

“Today I can so proudly announce that hospitals and healthcare providers treating uninsured coronavirus patients will be reimbursed by the federal government using funds from the economic relief package Congress passed last month,” President Donald Trump said during a press briefing on Friday.

He and Vice President Mike Pence had been peppered with questions for how they would handle the growing number of uninsured after the administration announced it wouldn’t open a special enrollment period for in the midst of the pandemic. While the millions that had recently lost their job would still be able to seek insurance through the federal marketplaces, a special enrollment period would have made that process easier by reducing the amount of needed paperwork. It also would have allowed those who were previously uninsured to enroll in a marketplace plan.

With 9 million newly unemployed in the last two weeks, according to U.S. Labor Department data, many will also get coverage through Medicaid. But for states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs, many adults would struggle to get coverage.

Photo credit: Kaikoro, Getty Images

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