Coronavirus vaccine should be covered by Medicare for seniors, Schumer says

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday he will introduce a provision into the multi-billion-dollar bill on the government’s coronavirus response that will cover the cost of vaccinations for senior citizens under Medicare.

The federal aid necessary to deal with the widespread virus that has killed nearly 3,000 people — including one in the U.S. — was still being negotiated in Congress but Schumer said he was hopeful it will pass the House and Senate in the next two weeks and garner bipartisan support to make the cost of a future vaccine free for seniors.

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Schumer has proposed an $8.5 billion spending package including $2 billion to reimburse state and local governments for hospitals and other resources; $1.5 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and $1 billion for vaccine development, which could take months before one is readily available for patients. The Senate minority leader’s plan pitched approximately $6 billion more than President Trump originally requested, as many Democrats have said the original ask was insufficient to deal with the growing epidemic.

Senior citizens have been among the most vulnerable populations to contract coronavirus, which has hit people with weakened immune systems especially hard.

“As the race for a safe, effective and affordable vaccine nears the finish line, it is crucial to put the plans in place that guarantee seniors will be able to get it and afford it,” Schumer said in a statement Sunday. “My plan to have Medicare fully cover the cost of the vaccine will mean no senior will be forced to make the choice between shelling out and going without.”

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His Republican counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said last week, “I have faith the [Senate Appropriations Committee] will carefully consider the right sum to appropriate at this time to ensure our nation’s needs are fully funded.”

As of Sunday, the number of cases of the virus has grown to over 80,000 people in nearly 60 countries. The number of known coronavirus cases in the U.S. had reached 70.



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