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Congress Passes Third Coronavirus Package

After a tumultuous week of negotiations, Congress passed the $2 trillion “phase three” COVID-19 relief package. The package includes a number of policies that will support health care providers in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the face of dire financial needs stemming from this public health crisis, the legislation offers avenues to financial resources, including a $100 billion emergency fund grant program to reimburse eligible health care providers for health care-related expenses or lost revenues attributable to COVID-19. Additionally, it creates a new Medicare add-on payment to be applied when a hospital treats a patient with COVID-19.

Importantly, the bill temporarily halts detrimental payment cuts, including eliminating the $4 billion cut to Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital payments that was scheduled to take effect on May 22, 2020. The bill also ensures that hospitals are not subject to a 2 percent across-the-board Medicare “sequestration” cut.

The legislation provides flexibility for post-acute care providers, so they are able to increase the capacity of the health care system without penalty during the emergency period.

To further encourage the use of telehealth during this crisis, the bill makes a number of policy changes including lifting restrictions under Medicare, including enhancing Medicare telehealth services for Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics, and allowing hospice recertifications to be completed via telehealth—rather than a face-to-face visit—during the emergency period.

The legislation takes a number of steps to address access to health care supplies, including:

  • Bolstering the strategic national stockpile
  • Improving the medical product supply chain
  • Mitigating emergency drug shortages
  • Preventing essential medical device shortages

The product out of Washington, D.C., this week is a step in addressing the enormous financial strain facing hospitals—accounting for expenses incurred due to potential COVID-19 patient surges, as well as the revenue hospitals lose as their efforts solely focus on COVID-19 activities.

Swift action by state and federal lawmakers to pass financial assistance packages demonstrates recognition of the urgency of the crisis unfolding across the country and in our communities. HAP continues to encourage Pennsylvania hospitals to keep an open line of communication with elected officials and policymakers about the significance of the challenges. HAP’s advocacy for relief and resources will continue.

Please contact Laura Stevens Kent with any questions regarding the legislation or advocacy positioning.

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