NY AG calls on Congress to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccine

Posted at 11:09 AM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 11:11:15-05

NEW YORK (WKBW) — New York Attorney General Letitia James led a coalition of 13 state attorneys general which called on Congress to provide equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine.

In a joint letter, officials outlined three actions for Congress to take to ensure equitable access to the vaccine.

“An end to the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight, but we cannot rid this disease without equitable vaccine access,” said Attorney General James. “We must ensure there are no economic barriers to people receiving this lifesaving vaccine, especially those in communities most devastated by the pandemic. Every person in this country deserves free and fast access to the vaccines, and we remain committed to ensuring that happens.”

Officials cite recent reports that show 16 percent of American adults are uninsured, 19 percent of Americans are insured under Medicare, and 21 percent of Americans are insured under Medicaid.

The attorney general's office says Americans who are uninsured or insured under Medicare or Medicaid are more likely to be Americans of color whose communities have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

The three actions the joint lettter outlined for Congress are:

"First, Congress should codify the recent Center for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) Interim Final Rule allowing any vaccine authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to be covered at no cost to Medicare beneficiaries.

Second, the Provider Relief Fund, which gives uninsured individuals access to the vaccine, must also cover co-pay or out of pocket fees, as well as costs for outreach to uninsured communities.

Finally, Congress should provide states with additional financial assistance to supplement the Family First Coronavirus Response Act by ensuring that payment rates to providers are sufficient to allow Medicaid recipients to access the vaccine at no cost and providers to perform outreach to vulnerable communities."

The attorneys general of California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington joined Attorney General James in signing the letter.