A battle with Covid-19 left Irena Schulz with pain in her ears and hearing loss. It also saddled the retired Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s researcher with nearly $10,000 of credit card debt from medical bills.
As the pandemic begins to recede in the United States, its financial toll on Americans such as Schulz is beginning to emerge.
While federal law has ensured that Covid-19 tests and vaccines are free, that protection does not extend to Covid-19 treatment, meaning that people with private insurance who got sick and had to be treated for the virus, may still face large bills, Keri Enriquez reports.
Democratic Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota wants to fix that. She has a piece of legislation — the Covid-19 Treatment Coverage Act — that has been awaiting review by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions since August 2020.
But many Americans, like Schulz, won’t be able to wait for Washington to work through its legislative gridlock.
Schulz, a Covid long-hauler, has seen her family’s finances and emergency funds depleted due to her serious coronavirus infection last summer. She says it left her suffering from chronic exhaustion and a weakened immune system, but says she hasn’t seen a doctor in a year, as she can’t afford it.
For more than six months, Schulz has been battling with her insurance company to cover 60% of the cost of her $5,400 hearing aids — a claim they continue to deny, and have refused to reimburse her for, she says. Schulz also says she thought her trip to the emergency room and other bills would be covered by the medical insurance she gets through her husband’s employer. That insurance company opted not to waive Covid-19 treatment fees, leaving her responsible for the payments, she says.
“We need a healthcare system that actually works for us,” Schulz said. “We should not have to worry about whether we can afford to go to the doctor, or whether we’re going to be able to afford the procedure or the treatments or the drugs.”
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: Will I need to wear a mask at summer camp?
A: Last Friday, the CDC put out new Covid-19 guidelines for summer camps, saying staff and campers who are fully vaccinated don’t need to wear masks, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial regulations, or if it’s a business or workplace policy.
Physical distancing is also no longer necessary for those who are fully vaccinated, the agency said.
Camps with unvaccinated campers or staff should use multiple prevention strategies to protect those who aren’t vaccinated, the agency said, adding that in those cases physical distancing will be one of the important tools to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
In its guidance, the CDC encouraged everyone 12 years and older to get vaccinated against the virus and underscored the vaccines are safe and effective.
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WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
Vietnam detects a suspected new coronavirus variant
Vietnam’s health ministry has detected a suspected new coronavirus variant which it said appears to be a hybrid of two highly transmissible strains first identified in the UK and India respectively.
The Southeast Asian country was held up as a leading example in containing the virus thanks to an aggressive strategy of early screening of passengers at airports and a strict quarantine and monitoring program. It has reported a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases since late April. It is not clear if the suspected new variant is behind the sudden rise in infections. If it is, it could suggest that it is more transmissible.
Brazilian protesters demand Bolsonaro’s impeachment and better vaccine access
Tens of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets Saturday to voice their frustrations with President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, in what appeared to be the largest protests the country has seen since the pandemic began last year, Marcia Reverdosa and Rodrigo Pedroso report.
Demonstrators in some of the country’s largest cities, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, called for the president’s impeachment and for better access to Covid-19 vaccines. Many protesters did not appear to be practicing social distancing, although most wore masks. The demonstrations come as the country faces a possible third wave of the virus. Less than 10% of Brazil’s population has been fully vaccinated.
New push for intelligence on Covid-19’s origins aimed at elevating scientific analysis
The intelligence community’s push to uncover the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic has largely relied on traditional intelligence-gathering tools until now, but President Joe Biden’s “redoubled” effort is intended in part to elevate scientific analysis, Katie Bo Williams and Natasha Bertrand report.
The effort will bring in the National Labs, a collection of 17 elite research facilities under the Energy Department, “because of their ability to crunch massive amounts of data,” a White House official told CNN. It comes as the lab leak theory has begun to gain more mainstream acceptance and pressure has risen on Capitol Hill to explore that possibility. The Biden administration has indicated it wants to lean more heavily on traditional science to help come up with an answer.
ON OUR RADAR
- The Duchess of Cambridge joined the millions of Britons who have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, saying she was “hugely grateful.”
- The owner of a Nashville hat store has been accused of anti-Semitism after announcing the sale of yellow Star of David badges, similar to the ones Nazis forced Jews to wear during the Holocaust, which read “NOT VACCINATED.”
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has married fiancée Carrie Symonds in a small wedding carried out in secrecy at Westminster Cathedral in London. The couple will celebrate again with family and friends next summer after Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
- Employers can legally offer incentives to employees to get vaccinated in the US, as long as they are not coercive, according to new guidance.
Don’t just go back to ‘normal.’ Post-pandemic life can be much better than that.
Amid the collective fear and suffering of the pandemic, there are some lessons learned from our time under lockdown that we should keep, such as slowing down and spending more time with family. As the US returns to some form of normality, here are five ways the pandemic can improve how we live on the other side of it.