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 - APRIL 20, 2020


Congress Remains at Impasse on COVID 3.5, 4


Democratic lawmakers remain at odds with the Administration about the next stage of economic recovery legislation. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and congressional Republicans are supportive of passing a clean bill providing an additional $251 billion in funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which ran out of money last week. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has stopped accepting applications and enrolling new lenders. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) support pairing this funding with some adjustments to the program plus $250 billion in aid to hospitals as well as state and local governments.

Both sides also remain in talks about a larger follow-up package, though the timing of that bill and what it will entail remains unclear. Four senior House Democrats are arguing that it should include anti-profiteering language that would block patents on COVID-19 vaccines or treatments. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) are working with House leadership to include language in the next piece of major COVID-19 legislation that would deny any company exclusive rights to coronavirus-related medicines or vaccines, bar unreasonable pricing for such products, and require public reporting of related research funding.

Any action on an eventual deal would likely require unanimous consent. Congress is not expected to return to Washington until May 4, rather than April 20 as previously scheduled, unless it is necessary to take action on legislation related to the coronavirus response. House Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) is recommending a temporary change to the chamber’s rules that would expand the use of voting by proxy. Any member who was unable to travel to Washington could provide another member who has been authorized to vote on their behalf with specific instructions for individual votes.

Over the weekend, some House Republicans suggested that negotiators are close to a deal and that they could return to Washington this week even if only to encourage the process and need for additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program. On Saturday evening, Speaker Pelosi updated House Democrats saying that “bipartisan negotiations on our interim legislation and our progress is encouraging.” Members were advised that the House could meet as early as Wednesday to consider that bill, and that a recorded vote on the interim legislation was expected. House Rules Committee is expected to meet on Tuesday and consideration by the full House is expected on Wednesday. Reportedly the at least $470 billion package will include $310 billion for the Payment Protection Program and set aside $60 billion for smaller community banks. In addition, the plan is expected to include $65 billion for disaster loans, $75 billion for hospitals, and $25 billion for COVID testing.


Burgess Supports Assistance for 501(c)(6)s


Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) has sent a letter to House leadership requesting that 501(c)(6) organizations be eligible to receive loans from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The purpose of the program, which was created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is to support small businesses in keeping employees on the payroll. Rep. Burgess’s letter focuses on the need for local chambers of commerce, many of which are 501(c)(6) organizations, to be made eligible for this assistance.


Crapo Asks for Details on PPP Rollout


Senate Banking Committee Chair Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) has asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for information about outstanding issues related to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), including the possibility of providing flexibility so that certain small businesses that are currently ineligible may access the program. The letter asks about necessary changes to achieve the broadest possible participation in the PPP by both borrowers and lenders and about opportunities to extend loans’ maturity beyond two years. The letter also comments on the implementation of the Main Street Lending program.


DeLauro Seeks Details on Hospital Fund Disbursement


House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) has written to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Alex Azar requesting information about the status of the $100 billion Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) allocation process. She asks for details about when money will be disbursed to hotspots and about payments already disbursed in the initial tranche of $30 billion. DeLauro also asks about the administration’s guidance for nursing homes and senior living facilities and about its strategy for increasing testing to the scale that will be necessary to sufficiently monitor the transmission of COVID-19.



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