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Katie Porter just expertly schooled the Trump administration on why coronavirus testing should be free

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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Without universal healthcare, Americans are looking at hundreds of dollars in fees for coronavirus testing. This female politician just proved that it doesn’t have to be like that. 

Do you know how much a coronavirus test costs for an uninsured person in the US?

Take a guess. That’s what Rep. Katie Porter, a congresswoman from California, asked audience members at a hearing on President Donald Trump’s government’s reaction to the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday. In particular, Porter grilled Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr Robert Kadlec about how much an uninsured person in the US would be out of pocket if they had to have a coronavirus test.

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Dr Kadlec didn’t know, but Porter did. She got out a whiteboard and broke down every step in the testing process – from the test itself to visiting the ER – and came up with the final figure. The answer is $1,331. 

“Fear of these costs are going to keep people from being tested, from getting the care they need, and from keeping their communities safe,” Porter summed up.

Porter wasn’t only making a point about the price of coronavirus testing and about the millions of uninsured people currently living in the US, where there is no universal healthcare.

She also wanted to put pressure on Trump’s coronavirus so-called “preparedness and response” unit to make way for free testing for everyone. This, she stressed, was the only way that the virus would be contained in the US, where only 11,000 people have been tested so far. Just for a comparison, South Korea is testing 10,000 people every single day.

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“Do you want to know who has the coronavirus and who doesn’t?” Porter asked Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield.

“Yes,” he responded.

“Not just rich people, but everybody who might have the virus?”

“All of America,” he confirmed.

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The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has been described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a “pandemic”.

Well, Porter said, the CDC Director has the power to force the government to make payments for “the care and treatment of individuals subject to exam and quarantine, isolation and conditional release”. Basically, to pay for coronavirus testing.

Porter demanded that Redfield confirm that he would authorise the government to pay for coronavirus testing.

“Will you commit to the CDC right now using that existing authority to pay for diagnostic testing free to every American regardless of insurance?” Porter asked.

“I can say, we’re gonna do everything we can to make sure everybody…”

“Not good enough,” she said. 

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Porter kept the pressure on Redfield to confirm while he kept resisting. Finally, Porter played her ace in the hole.

“Dr Redfield, I hope that answer weighs heavily on you. Because it is going to weigh very heavily on me and on every American family.”

At last, Dr Redfield said: “I think you’re an excellent questioner, so my answer is yes.”

“Excellent!” replied Porter. “Everybody in America hear that? You are eligible to go get tested for coronavirus and have that covered, regardless of insurance.”

And you can thank Porter for putting the pressure on officials. 

Images: Getty

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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