UPDATE: May 18, 2020: The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed the $3 trillion bill. However, Senate leaders have said it's too soon for more relief legislation and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday called the bill "entirely unacceptable."
- House Democrats on Tuesday introduced a $3 trillion relief bill, dubbed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, that allocates $100 billion for provider reimbursement (with certain documentation) and creates special enrollment periods for Medicare and Affordable Care Act plans.
- The House could vote on the bill as soon as Friday. However, President Donald Trump has indicated he is in no rush to sign another aid package, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said earlier this week he saw no urgent need for another round of legislation.
- The legislation also calls for the establishment of a nationwide evidence-based system for testing, contact tracing, surveillance, containment and mitigation of COVID-19, offering guidance on isolation of infected individuals and public reporting on testing, tracing and quarantine activities.
Given the lack of enthusiasm by Republicans and the president, the proposal amounts to the Democrats' opening offer for the next phase of congressional action to help fight the pandemic.
It follows the more than $3 trillion Congress has approved thus far in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The wide-ranging package proposed by House Democrats would provide about $1 trillion in further aid to state and local governments as well as more direct payments to individuals.
The legislation proposes lowering the interest rate and extending repayment period on Medicare loans the government has been sending hospitals under its advanced payment program.
The 1,815-page bill also contains premium assistance for COBRA continuation. In a summary of the bill's provisions, the American Hospital Association also highlighted a 14% increase in the federal matching rate to states for Medicaid.
The draft requires health plans to waive cost-sharing requirements for COVID-19 treatment and related services, which major insurers have already promised.
The American Clinical Laboratory Association, which represents LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, among other commercial labs, said it is still reviewing the bill. But ACLA President Julie Khani reminded lawmakers that its early March request for more clarity on who should be tested and a predictable funding stream is still unanswered.
"Today, ACLA members have performed nearly five million tests for COVID-19, and these needs remain unchanged," she said in a statement.
The legislation would provide tax credits to encourage employers to retain workers, extend unemployment insurance, fund student loan forgiveness and offer help to farmers, essential workers, homeowners and renters. It creates a $200 billion "Heroes Fund" to provide hazard pay to essential workers.
Congress in March passed a $2 trillion emergency aid package that expanded unemployment insurance and created a loan program for small businesses. In April, it passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act with $25 billion in additional funding to expand COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.