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Congress Leaves Those Most Endangered by Covid in the Lurch

The Covid-19 pandemic continues, but funding for vaccines, tests, ventilation, and treatment does not. The United States has suffered a higher death rate than other high-income countries throughout the pandemic. The toll has also been profoundly unequal—borne disproportionately by people who are low-income, Black, Latinx, or Indigenous. And the current lack of funding from Congress is worsening access to vaccines, tests, and treatments for those who need them most. Congress must step up to ensure that all Americans have the means to protect their own and their families’ health during the pandemic—and to reduce the burden on the hospitals and health care workers we all may need in future surges.

People with low incomes have been disproportionately exposed to Covid-19 and at higher risk of severe Covid illness since the start of the pandemic. They are also more likely to be uninsured compared with their higher-income counterparts because of limited affordable health insurance coverage, frequent lack of health insurance benefits associated with low-wage jobs, and stringent Medicaid eligibility criteria in certain states.

With the end of the federal Covid reimbursement program for the uninsured on March 22, people who are uninsured have not had access to free vaccines, testing, and treatment. The latest funding deal includes funds for purchasing Covid-19 therapeutics, tests, and vaccines—tools essential tools for protecting all Americans; however, it leaves out a sizable segment of the population—those who are uninsured. Twenty-eight million uninsured Americans now have fewer options for vaccination.

Based on analyses of a nationally representative Household Pulse Survey collected by the US Census Bureau, more than 70 percent of people who do not have health insurance needed a vaccine or booster in March 2021, and only 43 percent of people with health insurance.

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