Katie Porter, the representative for California’s 45th congressional district, got the director of the CDC to verbally commit to free coronavirus testing for Americans. After 5 minutes of intense questioning, Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, committed to free testing for all Americans, whether or not they’re covered by insurance.
The full video is available here:
The exchange took place on the second day of a House hearing on the coronavirus. The CDC director, Robert Redfield, was joined by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and others to answer questions about the U.S. response to the outbreak. On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 coronavirus a pandemic.
Porter Calculated the Current Costs of Testing for the Coronavirus
In the exchange, Porter starts by asking Redfield all the different costs for coronavirus testing: a full blood test, a metabolic panel, two different flu tests and the emergency room visit. She wrote each number on a whiteboard and added up the total to $1,331. Those are the basic costs, whereas any medical isolation would make that number go up significantly.
Porter then says: “Fear of these costs are going to prevent people from being tested, from getting the care they need and from keeping their communities safe.” She asks him bluntly, “Dr. Redfield, do you want to know who has coronavirus and who doesn’t?”
Porter Told the CDC Director That the Law Gives Him the Authority to Make Testing Free for All Americans
Porter cited a federal code that allows the CDC director to use their authority to make diagnostic testing free for every American regardless of whether they’re insured. She asked Redfield to commit to using that authority.
When he didn’t give a direct answer, Porter pushed him further: “Dr. Redfield, you have the existing authority. Will you commit right now to using the authority that you have, vested in you under law, that provides in a public health emergency for testing, treatment, exam, isolation, without cost? Yes or no?”
Redfield responded that he was reviewing with the CDC how to “operationalize” things, to which Porter said “You need to make a commitment to the American people so they come in to get tested. You can operationalize the payment structure tomorrow.” Redfield replied, “I think you’re an excellent questioner, so my answer is yes.”
Porter took the opportunity to lay out his commitment clearly, saying “Excellent. Everybody in America, hear that. You are eligible to go get tested for coronavirus and have that covered regardless of insurance.”
The CDC has not yet released any details or confirmed in writing what CDC director Redfield said during the hearing.