Missouri’s Governor must declare a public health emergency to confront COVID-19
Missourians look for guidance and leadership from the Governor. Now is the time for clear and decisive action. There are steps we can take now to protect ourselves, our families, and our neighbors from the outbreak of COVID-19.
The Governor must issue an emergency declaration so that the state can access funds and take additional actions to respond to this growing public health emergency. These funds are needed immediately to rapidly expand the availability of testing for COVID-19. An emergency declaration gives the Governor unique powers that can expand the availability of public health resources and control community spread of the disease.
Governors from both parties are taking these steps. As we have seen in other states and across the globe, this disease spreads quickly. While it may seem like we’re not in the midst of a pandemic now, it’s only a matter of time unless we act accordingly. Hope is not enough.
Testing for COVID-19
Missouri needs to rapidly expand our ability to make testing kits available to local health officials and healthcare providers. We are not adequately prepared to get a handle on the scope of an emerging public health crisis. The strict testing criteria, the lack of kits available, and the costs associated with the test for consumers means that many carriers of the virus may not be following guidance and instead actively spreading the illness.
- Require Missouri health insurers to waive any out-of-pocket expenses for COVID-19 testing.
- Free testing for those with MOHealthNet.
- State government should absorb the cost of the test for anyone who does not have insurance.
- In addition to existing testing, leverage public-private partnerships so more test kits are available in Missouri. State and local health officials need a better understanding of the scope of the disease and community spread, which can only occur with more testing.
Eliminating the spread of COVID-19
This has the potential to become an unprecedented public health emergency. No concert, sporting event, or party is worth the cost of preventable deaths. We know from other countries that social distancing can reduce the spread of COVID-19. The time is now to begin implementing common-sense precautions.
- Encourage sponsors and hosts to delay any event that would result in the gathering of a large number of people in a single location.
- Encourage Missourians to avoid large public gatherings. Even if you are not vulnerable to COVID-19, you may spread it to someone who is.
- Prepare to implement formal procedures to prohibit such events in counties impacted by a widespread outbreak.
This emergency highlights the staggering gaps in our health insurance coverage system in Missouri. We have tens of thousands of eligible kids purged from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), hundreds of thousands of working Missourians living without any health insurance coverage at all, and many more with plans that cost a lot and cover a little. When they get sick, we all pay for it. Now is the time to address it.
- Any previously eligible CHIP recipient currently purged should have their coverage restored immediately with their eligibility status reviewed after six months.
- Waive co-pays for MOHealthNet recipients receiving treatment for COVID-19 or its symptoms.
- Use the federal relief dollars to offset the cost to healthcare providers for caring for those who get sick but don’t have insurance.