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Get to Know the HRSA Uninsured Program

 
Federal funding for COVID-19 response efforts, including a program to support testing, treatment, and vaccines for uninsured patients is running out. Read on to learn more about what this lapse in funding means for community health centers.
 
There is a stalemate in Congress over how to move forward with additional funding to support the COVID-19 response, including funding to support a key program for folks without insurance, the HRSA Uninsured Program.
 
What is the HRSA Uninsured Claims Program?
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Uninsured Program reimburses providers, including community health centers, for the costs of providing COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and treatment to uninsured patients. The program has been instrumental in Tennessee where 31% of community health center patients are uninsured.1 
 
Why did funding for the program run out?
During the FY 2022 omnibus negotiations, the Biden administration requested $22.5B to continue to support COVID-19 response efforts. However, this funding was initially cut to $15.6B and eventually removed from the $1.5T package entirely after Congress failed to reach a bipartisan agreement.
 
What does the loss of funding mean for health centers?
Due to insufficient funds, the HRSA Uninsured Program stopped accepting claims from health centers on March 22. Community health centers have until April 5 to submit claims to receive reimbursement for administering vaccines. To date, the HRSA Uninsured Program has reimbursed providers roughly $19B for providing COVID-19 tests, vaccines, and treatment to uninsured patients.2 Reimbursement breaks down to 60% for testing claims, 31% for treatment claims, and 9% for vaccine administration.3 

In some states, Medicaid will cover the costs of providing COVID-19 tests, treatment, and care to uninsured patients, however, Tennessee is not one of the 15 states with that option.4 Under the current circumstances, community health centers cannot charge patients for vaccinations, or for any supplies provided for free through the Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC) programs.
 
What is the future of the program?
In addition to lack of funds to support the HRSA Uninsured Program, the federal government will also run out of funds to purchase COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines that were made available for free, regardless of their insurance status. The supply the federal government already has will continue to be available to folks at no cost, but the government does not have sufficient funds to continue purchasing supplies.5 The Biden administration continues to pressure Congress to pass additional COVID-19 funding but there is uncertainty over whether Congress will be able to reach an agreement. 
 
 
 
[1] Tennessee Health Center Program Uniform Data System (UDS) Data. (2022). Retrieved from https://data.hrsa.gov/tools/data-reporting/program-data/state/TN
[2] Implications of the Lapse in Federal COVID-19 Funding on Access to COVID-19 Testing, Treatment, and Vaccines. (2022). Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/implications-of-the-lapse-in-federal-covid-19-funding-on-access-to-covid-19-testing-treatment-and-vaccines/
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.

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