POLICY BRIEFINGS


Hart Health Strategies provides a comprehensive policy briefing on a weekly basis. This in-depth health policy briefing is sent out at the beginning of each week. The health policy briefing recaps the previous week and previews the week ahead. It alerts clients to upcoming congressional hearings, newly introduced bills, regulatory announcements, and implementation activity related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and other health laws.


THIS WEEK'S BRIEFING - MARCH 23, 2020


Hart Health Strategies COVID-19 Resources


Due to the amount of rapidly emerging information related to COVID-19, Hart Health Strategies has developed a series of COVID-19 resources and continues to update and post the documents at the following links:


President Signs Coronavirus Response Phase II, Senate Working to Advance Phase III


Senate Republicans released the third phase (S. 3548) of Congress’ legislative response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak on Thursday. The $1.3 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is comprised of four main components: health care, tax, impacted industries, and small businesses. The relief bill includes tiered tax rebates up to $1,200 for middle-income families, loans or loan guarantees through the Treasury Department’s Exchange Stabilization Fund for “severely distressed sectors” impacted by the pandemic.

The legislation includes language based on the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act (S. 1350/H.R. 6283) which would shield health professionals who volunteer their services in response to the pandemic from lawsuits unless they engage in criminal conduct or gross negligence. The bill also proposes an added payment for hospitals amounting to a 15 percent rate bonus for caring for coronavirus patients.

Phase three would provide for expedited coding of novel medical products so that physicians could bill Medicare and Medicaid for the use of new technologies. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would also be required to promptly determine whether new therapies coming to market will be covered on a nationwide basis.

The Republican COVID-19 economic response plan was initially rejected by Senate Democrats, who have argued that it puts the interests of corporations ahead of workers. Administration officials, Senate Democrats, and Senate GOP leaders are involved in the ongoing negotiations on the package. The administration is pushing to include provisions that would further strengthen the economy, including direct payments to more Americans. Democrats support expanding the legislation to increase unemployment insurance and to provide more funding to workers, Medicaid, and public health programs. Democrats are also demanding that the package include additional emergency funding to states and aid for hospitals and other health care facilities caring for patients with the virus. Given the bipartisan agreement on the need to act quickly, discussions on the bill continued throughout the weekend in the hopes of a Monday vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture on the stimulus package on Friday, saying the Senate will not adjourn until a vote on the third spending bill takes place. On Sunday evening, the cloture vote on the bill failed by a vote of 47-47 vote, with 60 needed to advance the measure. It is unclear at this time how McConnell will opt to proceed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left a meeting in McConnell’s office earlier Sunday saying they had no deal and the House would write its own package.

The House of Representatives remains out of session. Members have been told that they will not be brought back to Washington until the Senate has passed its legislation. Pelosi has expressed support for a broader economic stimulus plan, and stated that the next House response to the virus will expand refundable tax credits for the self-employed and access to longer term leave, increase the scope of allowable uses of family and medical leave, and ensure paid leave for first responders and health workers. The next piece of House legislation is expected to follow regular order and give committees the opportunity to provide input. Work on the bill will proceed even while the House remains in recess.

Recently, the President invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA), which could be used to increase the nation’s supply of medical products needed to combat the coronavirus. To aid in the formation of any contracts with private manufacturers to make the needed supplies, the latest CARES Act includes $1 billion for these purposes.

The Senate approved the second congressional COVID-19 relief package (H.R. 6201) on Wednesday by a vote of 90-8, with Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Tim Scott (S.C.) voting against the bill. The President signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law on March 18. The phase two COVID legislation includes paid leave requirements and free coverage of coronavirus testing. As a result of its negotiations with the administration and concerns about the impact of the bill on small businesses, the House was required to make technical fixes to the package that included a scale-back of its paid leave program prior to Senate passage. Employees’ eligibility for expanded family and medical leave will be limited to childcare purposes. The previous version of the bill would have allowed 12 weeks of partially paid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for quarantine or to care for a family members as well



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