On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump gave a primetime televised address to the public surrounding concerns raised by the coronavirus pandemic. Trump’s speech, however, was riddled with inaccuracies so numerous that the White House and fact-checkers struggled to keep up with the disinformation being spread. Namely, Trump declared that all major insurance companies “have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments” as the virus spreads throughout the population. Insurance companies, however, were quick to push back against this statement.
A spokesperson for America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), an insurance lobbying group, told Politico healthcare reporter Sarah Owermohle that major insurance companies would only waive copays “for testing. Not for treatment.” Those who contract the coronavirus and test positive will, in fact, face considerable cost for treatment.
An anonymous White House official also told CNN’s Jim Acosta that Trump was probably confused while reading his remarks off of a teleprompter and actually meant to say that insurance companies “have agreed to waive all copays on coronavirus testing.”
Trump also caused mass confusion during his televised statement when he declared a travel ban from many European countries in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus from affected regions. Trump framed the ban as a moratorium on “all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.”
However, while chaos ensued in airports in order to try and board flights before the ban was set to begin at midnight, White House officials attempted to clarify that Trump’s declaration wasn’t entirely true. The ban would, in fact, only apply to foreign nationals and not American citizens who had been screened before entering the country. This ban already mimics restrictions that the Trump administration applied to China last month.
The people most vulnerable to the spread of the virus are obviously not those who might miss out on cheap airfare between the U.S. and Europe, but rather the 30 million Americans without health insurance and the tens of millions more without adequate coverage for these tantamount medical expenses. One wonders what a universal healthcare system, boasted by Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders, would provide citizens during times of pandemic and communicable disease.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Representative from New York and a major supporter of Sanders’ campaign, implored the U.S. government to extend Medicare or Medicaid coverage to everyone in the U.S. in light of the coronavirus outbreak, especially as the virus has spread to 34 states and killed over 30 people.