On Monday, Sept. 28, House Democrats released legislative text for an updated version of the HEROES Act, in their latest attempt to reignite bipartisan negotiations on a COVID-19 relief package. The $2.2 trillion proposal is a slimmed down version of their earlier $3.5 trillion HEROES Act, which passed through the House on May 15.
The health care provisions in this version of the HEROES Act are largely the same as those in the previous iteration, though many of the timelines for programmatic funding have been cut down. Among many other things, the bill includes $125 billion through the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, which is broken down into $50 billion in grants for hospital and health care providers for COVID-19-related reimbursements, and $75 billion for coronavirus testing, contact tracing and isolation measures, with special attention to the disparities facing communities of color. It also includes $500 million for states to establish and implement strike teams to deploy to skilled nursing facilities or nursing facilities as needed. Additionally, the bill contains a number of the same provisions intended to expand access to comprehensive health care coverage, such as opening new special enrollment periods for the Health Insurance Marketplaces. One significant change from the earlier version is that this legislation replaces COBRA subsidies for individuals losing their job-based coverage with subsidies for coverage through the Marketplaces/Exchanges.
Notably, the measure does not include changes to the Medicare accelerated and advanced payment programs that were included in the original legislation, as these changes will be made through the continuing resolution, if passed. It also does not include a provision from the original bill that would have prevented the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary from finalizing the Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Regulation (MFAR) until the end of the public health emergency. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Verma recently stated publicly that the agency is withdrawing this rule from the regulatory agenda. The bill also omits a provision that would have provided $1 billion to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for grants to institutions of higher education for establishment, improvement or expansion of medical schools in underserved areas.
The House is expected to vote on this bill as soon as this week, though the White House has not yet stated their position, and the Senate is not expected to take action on the measure in its current form.
Click here for our full overview and analysis of the Health Care Provisions of the HEROES Act II.
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