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 - JUNE 1, 2020


WH to Push for Clean Surprise Billing Ban


The White House has pivoted to a new strategy for addressing surprise insurance gaps and plans to urge lawmakers to ban surprise medical bills altogether in the next coronavirus stimulus package. Previous proposals would have protected patients from surprise bills while setting parameters for reimbursement of out-of-network charges. The President had been on the record in support of a bipartisan proposal from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee that would set benchmark pay rates for out-of-network services. The House Ways and Means Committee has introduced a competing proposal that would provide for an independent dispute resolution (IDR) process to settle provider-payer disputes. A clean ban on surprise billing would not mandate how doctors and hospitals recover their costs from insurers, leaving payment disputes to be resolved on a case-by-case basis. According to a congressional aide, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has advised that this plan would result in higher provider rates and increased premiums. An earlier coronavirus rescue package included a provision to cover the cost of COVID-19 testing, and the administration is requiring that providers agree to not send unexpected bills to coronavirus patients as a part of a $175 billion support fund.


National Testing Strategy Delivered to Congress


The White House has delivered its congressionally mandated report on a national coronavirus testing strategy to Congress. According to the report, the U.S. had tested a total of 4.1 million people as of April 21, and states currently have the ability to perform more than 2 million tests per week. The administration also indicates that the proportion of positive test results is decreasing. While the report does not include a specific nationwide testing goal, it states that the federal government will continue to support and encourage states in their testing efforts. The plan includes broad recommendations, suggesting that states should aim to test at least 2 percent of their populations in May and June, bring positive test rates below 10 percent, and invest in a technology accelerator program to scale up testing. The plan also suggests that conducting approximately 300,000 test per day is a sufficient target. The report was strongly criticized by congressional Democrats, who argued that the White House failed to explain how their testing targets were set, how targets will be met, and how the administration will respond if targets are not achieved. A national testing strategy was required by the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which was signed into law on April 24.


Democrats Blast CDC Report on Racial Disparities for COVID-19


Democrats, including Rep. Robin Kelly (Ill.), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (Wash.) slammed federal health officials Wednesday, calling a report on the racial breakdown of cases and deaths from the coronavirus “pitiful” and saying it hurts efforts to target resources to communities of color. The report in question consisted of 2.5 pages to meet a mandate included in the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act passed by Congress in April.


President Announces U.S. Withdrawal from WHO


President Trump stated on Friday that the U.S. will terminate its relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO). It remains unclear how the U.S. could go about withdrawing from the treaty signed to join the organization, which does not contain a formal mechanism for withdrawal. The announcement was widely criticized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, who have raised concerns about the impact of the decision on the development of vaccines. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) stated that he disagreed with the President’s announcement and asserted that the time to examine the mistakes of WHO is after the COVID-19 crisis.


House Passes Changes to Paycheck Protection Program


On May 28, the House passed H.R. 7010, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020, as amended. The House measure would give companies much more time to spend the money -- within 24 weeks or until the end of the year, whichever comes first -- and still qualify to have their PPP loans forgiven. Businesses would also have up to five years, instead of two years, to repay any money owed on a loan and could use a greater percentage of proceeds on rent and other approved non-payroll expenses (to 40% instead of the current 25%) and still receive full loan forgiveness. The 417-1 vote sends the measure to the Senate, which may seek changes.


Takano Requests Demographic Data on VA COVID Care


House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Mark Takano (D-Calif.) is requesting additional information about coronavirus patients being treated by the VA. In a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, Takano asks for daily updates on COVID-19 cases at VA hospitals broken down by age, race, ethnicity, gender, tribal affiliation, and spoken language, as well as an analysis of all COVID-19 cases treated by the VA to date. The letter criticizes the VA for failing to provide public facing communications for non-English speakers. Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and Karen Bass (D-Calif.) also signed on to the letter.


Takano Requests Demographic Data on VA COVID Care


House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Mark Takano (D-Calif.) is requesting additional information about coronavirus patients being treated by the VA. In a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, Takano asks for daily updates on COVID-19 cases at VA hospitals broken down by age, race, ethnicity, gender, tribal affiliation, and spoken language, as well as an analysis of all COVID-19 cases treated by the VA to date. The letter criticizes the VA for failing to provide public facing communications for non-English speakers. Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and Karen Bass (D-Calif.) also signed on to the letter.


Takano Requests Demographic Data on VA COVID Care


House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Mark Takano (D-Calif.) is requesting additional information about coronavirus patients being treated by the VA. In a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, Takano asks for daily updates on COVID-19 cases at VA hospitals broken down by age, race, ethnicity, gender, tribal affiliation, and spoken language, as well as an analysis of all COVID-19 cases treated by the VA to date. The letter criticizes the VA for failing to provide public facing communications for non-English speakers. Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and Karen Bass (D-Calif.) also signed on to the letter.



June 1, 2020: | Page 1 Page 2

SERVICES




BRIEFING ARCHIVE


 -  2020


 +  2019


 +  2018