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 - OCTOBER 5, 2020


Trump Receiving Medical Care for COVID-19 at Walter Reed


President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump announced that they had tested positive for coronavirus in the early hours of Friday. The White House canceled all public events on Friday, and his future campaign schedule is unknown. The President has been staying at Walter Reed hospital since Friday night, where his doctor says he is doing well and only experiencing mild symptoms. According to his medical team, the President is currently fever-free and not on supplemental oxygen. Doctors have administered an experimental antibody cocktail from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. along with Remdesivir. Should he be become incapacitated, the 25th Amendment would provide for the vice president to take over. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has tested negative for the virus. The two men shared the debate stage for the first time on Tuesday.

The Senate will not return today as scheduled and will instead recess until October 19. Three Republican senators – Mike Lee (Utah), Thom Tillis (NC), and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) –have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days, and two more are quarantining. Republican leadership does not believe that these developments will impact plans to confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barret. The Judiciary Committee is still scheduled to move forward with her confirmation hearing beginning on October 12.


HHS Announces Release of an Additional $20 B in Provider Relief Funds


On October 1, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the intended distribution of an additional $20 billion in funds from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund “that considers financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by the coronavirus.” Providers will be eligible to apply for the funding starting October 5, with an application deadline of November 6, 2020. If a provider has already received the two percent allocation based on patient revenue from the General Distribution, then the provider would be eligible for an equitable add-on payment that considers: (1) a provider’s change in operating revenues from patient care; (2) a provider’s change in operating expenses from patient care, including expenses incurred related to coronavirus; and (3) payments already received through prior Provider Relief Fund distributions. This round of funding is also open to providers that began practicing January 1, 2020 through March 31, 2020 and those who previously received, rejected or accepted a General Distribution payment to ensure that those providers receive their allocation of two percent of patient revenue in addition to any add-on payment. According to HHS, approximately $106 billion of the approximately $175 billion initially appropriated to the Provider Relief Fund has gone out to providers as of September 23.


Congress Passes CR to Fund Government Through Dec. 11


Congress has cleared a $1.4 trillion stopgap spending measure to avert a government shutdown and fund the federal government at current levels through December 11. The bill, which had previously been advanced by the House of Representatives, passed the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 84-10. Lawmakers were able to reach an agreement on the inclusion of nutrition assistance and trade relief payments for farmers in the final deal. The bill extends the Medicare geographic practice cost index (GPCI) floor and a number of health care programs, including the National Quality Forum, Money Follows the Person (MFP) Medicaid demonstration, Medicaid spousal impoverishment protections, community health centers, community behavioral health clinics, the National Health Services Corps, Teaching Health Centers, and the Special Diabetes Program, that were set to expire on November 30, and averts a $50 increase in 2021 Medicare Part B premiums. It would instead limit any increase in Medicare premiums to around $4 a month. It would extend the time in which health care providers must repay Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program loans and reduce the interest rate of those loans to four percent until the current public health emergency ends. The bill would also delay cuts to disproportionate share hospitals (DSH) until December 11. The bill authorizes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to collect user fees to support its reviews of over-the-counter drugs and its regulation of production facilities. The new deadline creates the possibility of a vehicle to which a surprise medical billing fix could be attached after the election but before the end of the year. Lawmakers will now attempt to complete work on the 12 annual appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2021 during the lame duck session of Congress following the November 3 elections.



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