5 ways for policymakers to continue the fight against COVID-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sicken tens of thousands of Americans and upend the lives of millions more, policymakers face a difficult task: fighting the virus at a time when many will be forced indoors by cooler weather and as people become increasingly fatigued by the social restrictions put in place to limit the virus’ spread. Add in the challenges of a fast-approaching flu season, and lawmakers have an exacting task.
To help ensure an effective response moving forward, we recommend policymakers focus on the following areas:
Experts agree that key public health measures, like social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing, as well as other prevention measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), act as the first line of defense against COVID-19. The administration should consistently encourage adherence to critical public health measures through coordinated outreach and education and work with state and local governments to standardize messaging to ensure the American people consistently understand how to prevent spread of the virus.
A robust testing strategy is vital to suppress and contain the virus. Without it, our ability to track the spread of COVID-19 and identify emerging hot spots is severely limited. Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies are committed to covering COVID-19 diagnostic testing without cost-sharing, and policymakers can address the nation’s broader testing needs by providing additional funding to state and local governments to make sure people have seamless access to no-cost public health testing and tests needed to return to work. Lawmakers also must address shortages in the medical supply chain to ensure tests are widely available.
While work continues to develop a safe, effective and widely administered vaccine, managing the pandemic requires positive coronavirus cases be successfully tracked and isolated. Policymakers should support a coordinated contact tracing and public health surveillance strategy, including measures that promote widespread compliance, encourage individuals to respond to tracers and enhance the existing public health technology infrastructure.
No-cost Access to Vaccines
A safe, effective and affordable vaccine—that the public trusts—is a key component in the COVID-19 response. It is critical that any approval or authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration be based on sound, scientific evidence and that any approved vaccine is closely monitored to ensure long-term safety and efficacy. There also must be open and transparent processes for vaccine development, allocation and distribution, and policymakers should implement a vigorous communications campaign to build the public’s trust.
Once a vaccine is available, policymakers should prioritize those at highest risk of severe illness and death from the virus, including front-line workers, such as health care professionals, the elderly, people of color and other vulnerable populations. Policymakers should also address racial and ethnic disparities in access to vaccines and make sure a vaccine is available to everyone at no cost.
Affordable Coverage and Care
Ensuring access to affordable coverage and health care is imperative so people can get the care they need to diagnose and treat COVID-19. Policymakers can do so by providing assistance to help people who have lost their jobs maintain employer coverage; expanding access to telehealth services so people can receive care, screenings and medical services from a safe distance; helping states protect Medicaid by providing funding to cover enrollment increases during the economic crisis; and ending surprise billing so consumers do not receive excessive bills for out-of-network care.
Read our full recommendations for addressing the COVD-19 pandemic.