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Senate Dems call for nationwide COVID-19 testing strategy, more funding


Senate Democrats are calling on the Trump Administration to develop a comprehensive strategy for nationwide COVID-19 testing.

Lawmakers released a “roadmap document with the goal of including its provisions in the next legislative aid package for COVID-19. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions committee, noted during an April 15 press conference call that testing in the United States is actually slowing because of shortages and glitches.

“At our current pace, getting 100 million tests done would already take far too long,” she said. “We absolutely cannot afford any backsliding.”

The components of the roadmap include requiring the federal government to develop and communicate a detailed strategic plan to rapidly scale and optimize COVID-19 testing, Sen. Murray said. “This is a national crisis. We need a federally coordinated, whole-of-society response, not one that leaves each state to fend for itself.”

The strategic plan called for in the roadmap would need to establish a high-functioning supply chain with a sufficient amount of available testing materials and supplies; assess potential bottlenecks in the supply chain and communicate them to all stakeholders; and develop and validate accurate and reliable tests for COVID-19, with an emphasis on tests that can deliver rapid results.

Legislation would be used to bolster the supply chain enhancements, according to the roadmap, and would include incentives for domestic manufacturing of testing supplies and compel the sharing of intellectual property and guarantees on the purchase of testing materials.

Testing would be available to patients at no cost sharing under this proposal. The plan also calls for strengthening the price gouging policy in the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act to ensure that health care professionals are fairly reimbursed by insurers.

The roadmap calls for $30 billion in new emergency funding to enable faster scaling of testing and development of different types of test, with an emphasis on rapid response tests. The funding would also be used to address supply chain issues, according to the roadmap document.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R.-Tenn.), who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions committee, echoed the need for more testing to be done, but suggested that the funding that has already been approved by Congress should be exhausted before more is allocated.

“In the last month, Congress has given federal agencies up to $38 billion to develop tests, treatments, and vaccines. Nothing is more important than finding a new diagnostic technology that will make it possible to test tens of millions of Americans, something our country has never tried to do before,” he said in a statement issued after the roadmap’s release. “We should start by using the money Congress has already provided, put politics aside, and work together on more tests with quick results.”

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