Last night, California State Representative Katie Porter played a key role in ensuring that every person in the United States will be able to be tested for COVID-19 regardless of their insurance status. And honestly, the way she did it might be the single most bad-ass thing we have ever seen.
Prior to the congressional hearing on Thursday, Rep. Porter, along with her colleagues Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Rep. Lauren Underwood, wrote a letter to the director of the Center for Disease Control, Dr. Redfield, urging him to use his power under the law to make Coronavirus testing free for all Americans regardless of insurance. Dr. Redfield appeared for questioning at the hearing, and Rep. Porter was not there to mess around.
As some might remember from when Porter completely and utterly roasted the billionaire CEO of JP Morgan last year, the representative has a thing for numbers. (If you somehow missed this iconic moment, Porter pulled out a whiteboard at a hearing with the CEO and laid out the average pay and budget that one of his bank employees might have. By the time she proved that the wages for employees in his company are unjust to say the least, he was at a loss for words.) This time around, Rep. Porter whipped out her trusty whiteboard once again and proved how important it is that diagnostic testing for COVID-19 be made free.
During this time, it is essential that people who are uninsured should not have to worry about the cost of testing and treatment. As Porter explained, when you add up the cost of a complete blood test, metabolic panel, Flu A and B tests, and emergency room visits, costs end up at around $1,331 without insurance — and yes, all of these components are essential when testing for COVID-19. According to the 2018 census, approximately 8.5 % of the United States is living without insurance. That's about 27.5 million. And the real number is likely quite a bit higher.
The problem here is that folks without insurance may avoid getting tested for COVID-19 due to the astronomical expenses of testing and potential hospital stays. This could threaten their lives and the lives of countless others. It is never the time to look the other way from people who are uninsured, but as Rep. Porter noted, now, in a global pandemic, it is more important than ever to make sure that money is not getting in the way of their health and safety.
Holy shit. Katie Porter holds the CDC Director's feet to the fire and gets him to commit to FREE TESTING for coronavirus for ALL AMERICANS.— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) March 12, 2020
Watch every second of this.pic.twitter.com/dQMbhR5Oaa
While Dr. Redfield appeared to try and dodge Rep. Porter’s questions at first, she was sure to make it clear that the “we’ll try and do everything we can” excuse is no longer good enough. “The deadline and the time for delay has passed,” the California Representative stated. “Will you commit to invoking your existing authority under 42 CFR 71.30 to provide for coronavirus testing for every american regardless of insurance coverage?” As an avid activist for working families and one of if not the best questioners in the entire House, Rep. Porter would not give up. She reclaimed her time over and over until the CDC director would give her a direct answer.
Finally, Dr. Redfield quit trying to come up with a long winded response and said yes. He commited to Rep. Porter’s request to waive all costs of COVID-19 testing for the American people. “Excellent,” Rep. Porter said, “Everyone in America, hear that. You are eligible to get tested for Coronavirus and have that covered regardless of insurance. Please, if you believe you have the illness, follow precautions, call first...but do not let a lack of insurance worsen this crisis." In a time as chaotic as this, when the person who is supposed to be leading the country only seems to make matters worse, a few passionate lawmakers are still standing up for our rights and safety.
Image via NBC News on YouTube
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Aliza is a Creative Writing BFA student and former BUST Magazine intern! When she's not writing, reading or scrolling through TikTok for hours on end, you can find her consuming copious amounts of iced coffee or doing something witchy. Follow her on Twitter @alizapelto.