Congress's failure to authorize further coronavirus response spending will have serious consequences, including the depletion of a fund to reimburse providers caring for uninsured COVID-19 patients, a senior administration official said Tuesday.
The Health and Human Services Department will begin scaling back that program next week, and it's due to end completely in early April without additional money, the official said during a call with reporters. That would leave providers unpaid when they test, treat or vaccinate uninsured people.
Lawmakers approved a $1.5 trillion package to fund government operations last week but didn't include any pandemic response money even though the White House requested $22.5 billion and previously warned that the uninsured fund was about to run dry.
Congressional leaders removed $15.6 billion for pandemic programs from the legislation at the last moment following a dispute about how to finance the spending. "We must continue to fight for urgently needed COVID assistance," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wrote in a letter to members ahead of the vote last Wednesday.
The lack of new funding also means the federal government won't be able to acquire enough vaccine doses for people who haven't received booster shots, the official said.
In addition, President Joe Biden's administration is scrapping a plan to purchase more monoclonal antibody treatments and will distribute more than 30% fewer treatments in order to stretch the existing supply, according to the official. Authorities also would be forced to scale back research and surveillance on new COVID-19 variants and reduce U.S. commitments to global vaccination efforts, the official said.