US COVID-19 funds drying up
Uninsured Americans may pay $100-195 for PCR tests
Published: Mar 30, 2022 04:39 PM
People wait for COVID-19 testing in the Queens borough of New York, the United States, Dec. 29, 2021. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

People wait for COVID-19 testing in the Queens borough of New York, the United States, Dec. 29, 2021. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

Health officials lamented on Tuesday that the US is "running out of money" to fight COVID-19, as more than 80 million cases have so far been reported nationwide.

"The federal government is running out of funds to provide Americans, especially those who are uninsured, with COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments," said an op-ed co-authored by US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and David Kessler, chief science officer for the US COVID-19 Response Team.

"If the funding does not materialize, we will find ourselves in a far weaker position, struggling to keep up with a constantly evolving virus that will continue to threaten our health, our economy, and our peace of mind," they wrote in the piece published by The New York Times (NYT).

Federal funding to cover the cost of COVID-19 testing and treatment for uninsured Americans reportedly dried up this week. Several testing providers will no longer provide tests for free to uninsured Americans, saying they will begin to charge between $100 and $195 for PCR tests, said ABC News.

In addition, the federal government last week cut shipments of lifesaving monoclonal antibodies to states by 35 percent - and officials anticipate running out of monoclonal antibodies later in 2022's spring.

"We will not be able to continue making home tests available, and the critical surveillance efforts that help us anticipate new waves and variants will be compromised," Murthy and Kessler said. 

"We cannot wait for another crisis for Congress to make sustained pandemic response funding available," they said.

The call for congressional funding came a day after US President Joe Biden unveiled the federal budget request for the fiscal year 2023, in which his administration urged efforts and investments to prepare "for future pandemics and other biological threats."

The budget asks for "transformative investments in pandemic preparedness" across the US Department of Health and Human Services - $81.7 billion available over five years - while it includes $9.9 billion to expand public health infrastructure and increase capacity for forecasting and analyzing future outbreaks, among other things.

However, the proposed funding for public health services was hugely dwarfed by the request for military and defense spending that amounts to over 813 billion dollars, of which 773 billion is planned for the Pentagon. Biden pitched it as "one of the largest investments in our national security in history."

In an article earlier in 2022, NYT opinion columnist Farhad Manjoo argued that the level of US military spending, reportedly accounting for nearly 40 percent of the world's defense expenditures, "has long been excessive."