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12.21.2020 / Press Release

Statement: As the Holiday Season Approaches and the Pandemic Continues to Ravage the Economy, Congress Gives Families Some Cheer, but More Help is Needed

Washington, D.C. – Families USA executive director Frederick Isasi shared the following comments about the latest COVID-19 relief package.

For over nine months, our nation, our families, and our communities have endured the stress and uncertainty of the worst health and economic crises in centuries. More than 17 million people across the country have become infected, and more than 315,000 people lost their lives. The job and health insurance losses have toppled industries far and wide and left 5.4 million people without health care coverage.

After months of waiting and lack of compromise, families might finally get some—though not nearly all of—the relief they need as unemployment insurance and housing protections are scheduled to run out, and the holidays are quickly approaching. Congressional leaders have announced they have reached an agreement on a $900 billion package that includes some funding for individual financial relief, schools, housing, safety net providers, transportation, child care, food assistance, and an extension of unemployment benefits. It also includes funding for a nationally-coordinated public health response for testing, contact tracing, treatment, and equitable access to vaccines, with particular support for low-income communities, communities of color, and other people who have been disproportionately impacted by the virus. While it is far less than House Democrats provided in their comprehensive HEROES Act, it does represent progress from the last few months of stalemate, and families across America desperately need this relief – as modest as it is —.

Notably the emerging deal includes a significant victory for consumers: Congress will finally put an end to the outrageous practice of surprise medical billing, a critical step toward ensuring families will no longer have to fear that accessing needed health care will lead to financial ruin. The deal also includes a few provisions from the bipartisan Lower Health Care Costs Act that will help keep health care costs down in the long run —more critical than ever as the country continues to grapple with the health and economic devastation from COVID-19. Families USA has been leading the charge on eliminating exploitative health system practices and banning surprise bills, and we strongly support these policies being signed into law.

However, it is painfully clear that Congress must do more for families. When leaders return to Washington, D.C. in January to take their oaths of office for the 117th Congress, they should act immediately to pass comprehensive COVID-19 relief legislation that includes robust financial support for states, territories, and localities; enhanced federal funding for Medicaid; and wide-ranging coverage priorities, such as support for the recently unemployed to enroll in affordable health insurance, COBRA subsidies, and consumer assistance.

President-elect Biden has already declared his intent to take bold and immediate steps to address this ongoing national tragedy, and we implore Congress to rise to the occasion and join him in this challenge.

“As we finally near the end of a year that has been extremely difficult and painful for so many, we implore Congress to put partisan differences aside and prioritize the health and financial well-being of their constituents who put them in office,” said Frederick Isasi, Executive Director of Families USA. “This pandemic has delivered families enough coal to last a lifetime. This package provides some cheer for the holidays but is nowhere near the scope and scale that’s needed to support families through this health and economic crisis.”

Families USA, a leading national voice for health care consumers, is dedicated to the achievement of high-quality, affordable health care and improved health for all.