Pallone and Scott Introduce the No Surprises for COVID-19 Tests Act
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) introduced the No Surprises for COVID-19 Tests Act today, which extends free COVID-19 testing beyond the Public Health Emergency, ensures that patients do not receive surprise medical bills for coronavirus tests, and closes a loophole in the Coronavirus Aide, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that some providers have used to price gouge for tests.
In March 2020, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that expanded access to free COVID-19 testing for everyone no matter their insurance coverage status for the duration of the Public Health Emergency. However, press reports indicate that some test providers are exploiting certain loopholes in order to charge unreasonable prices for tests.
“Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to ensure that everyone would have access to free and widely available COVID-19 testing,” said Chairman Pallone. “Unfortunately, some test providers are exploiting unintended loopholes in the system to unfairly price gouge and wrongfully bill patients for tests that should be free. The No Surprises for COVID-19 Tests Act will close these loopholes and ensure that Americans do not receive surprise medical bills for doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Congress must act on this commonsense legislation soon.”
“One of the most critical steps Congress took at the onset of the pandemic was providing Americans with free COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. We must provide consumers with the certainty that this protection will remain in effect in the months ahead,” said Chairman Scott. “The last thing families need during this ongoing public health emergency is an unexpected medical bill for a COVID-19 test. This legislation will help ensure that all Americans can continue to access no-cost COVID-19 testing and slow the spread of COVID-19.”
The No Surprises for COVID-19 Tests Act would extend coverage of COVID-19 testing at zero cost-sharing beyond the Public Health Emergency period until December 31, 2023. Insurance companies would be required to continue to provide coverage for related items and services without imposing any cost-sharing, including for health provider office visits, urgent care visits and emergency room visits that result in an order of or administration of a COVID-19 test.
The legislation also ensures that patients do not receive surprise bills for COVID-19 testing and applies the consumer protections included in the No Surprises Act, which was signed into law in December 2020 and went into effect on January 1, 2022, to COVID-19 testing and related items and services. Additionally, the bill sunsets a provision of the CARES Act that has allowed providers to bill at whatever “cash price” they list, which has resulted in significant price gouging of COVID-19 tests.
Pallone and Scott were key leaders in the effort to pass both the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the No Surprises Act, which protects patients from surprise medical bills and establishes a fair payment resolution process between health care providers and payors.