Senate Republicans on Monday released the highly anticipated text of their new COVID-19 relief package.
The legislation comes after Senate Republican leaders held intraparty negotiations with the White House over the weekend. Although the legislation does not represent the final product, the text includes several provisions of interest to essential hospitals, including:
- an additional $25 billion for the Provider Relief Fund, bringing the total appropriation for the fund to $200 billion;
extending Medicare telehealth flexibility made available during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) through the length of the PHE, or Dec. 31, 2021, whichever is later. It also would extend employer benefits for telehealth services and other remote care services through Jan. 1, 2022, or after the PHE ends;
- extending the deadline for hospitals and other providers to begin repaying Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payments Program loans by six months and adding 150 days to the interest-free repayment timeline; and
providing legal liability protections for health care providers, except in the situations of demonstrated gross negligence or willful misconduct.
Absent from this initial draft are important changes to protect Medicaid funding, such as a moratorium blocking the Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Regulation and a delay in implementation of the Medicaid disproportionate share hospital cut scheduled for Dec. 1.
The Senate Republican legislation will be the starting point for negotiations with congressional Democrats. As these conversations occur, the association will continue to advocate for essential hospital policy priorities.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a July 28 oversight hearing to examine COVID-19 financial relief packages to date.
The Senate Committee on Finance will hold a two-part hearing this week on protecting the country’s medical supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first hearing, on July 28, will feature testimony from officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection; U.S. Immigration, Customs, and Enforcement; and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The second hearing, on July 30, includes officials from association member University of Cincinnati Health, the American Nurses Association, Vizient, and the International Safety Equipment Association.
The Health Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a July 29 hearing on several bills to reauthorize public health programs, including school-based health clinics.