Patti Neighmond

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As the coronavirus continues to spread, federal health officials are recommending that people stock up on their prescription medications. That might not be as easy as it sounds. Here's NPR's Patti Neighmond.

As Americans begin to cope with the prospect that the novel coronavirus could spread more widely in the U.S., there are questions about how prepared and sufficiently funded most hospitals are to handle severe cases in a major outbreak.

So far, several dozen people or so, across the country have been hospitalized with the virus, and at least six people in the U.S. have died. Government health officials now say they expect significantly more cases could arise, which means that hospitals need to be ready.

The first Americans quarantined after evacuation from Wuhan, China, the center of this winter's coronavirus outbreak, are now beginning to settle back into normal routines.

For 24-year-old Daniel Wethli, a history buff who majored in philosophy as an undergrad, leaving Wuhan last month at the urging of the U.S. State Department was bittersweet.

Another U.S. case of infection with the novel coronavirus was confirmed Thursday, bringing the total number of domestic cases to 15. Around the world, cases have reached nearly 60,000 to date.

But if something changes and large numbers of people get infected in the U.S., is the country's health system prepared to cope with a surge of patients with this virus, or any future pathogen?

The majority of Americans have health insurance that includes coverage for prescription drugs. But unfortunately that doesn't ensure that they can afford the specific drugs their doctors prescribe for them.

In fact, many Americans report that their insurance plans sometimes don't cover a drug they need — and nearly half the people whom this happens to say they simply don't fill the prescription. That's according to a poll released this month on income inequality from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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