The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed Democrats’ opening bid for Congress’ fifth COVID-19 relief package, including another $100 billion for healthcare providers.
The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act passed 208-199, though it’s likely dead on arrival in the GOP-led Senate. Some moderate Democrats, the sponsor of the House version of Medicare for All legislation, and almost all Republicans voted against the bill.
It’s unlikely that Congress will take action before Memorial Day, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Thursday that he does expect another relief package will be needed eventually, but did not lay out a timeline.
The HEROES Act includes a new $100 billion allocation for the healthcare provider relief fund, but the money comes with new guardrails. Lawmakers had previously given HHS wide authority to distribute $175 billion to providers.
The bill also would relax the repayment terms for $100 billion in Medicare accelerated and advance payments, increase federal Medicaid matching funds from 6% to 14%, prohibit HHS from finalizing the Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Rule and a 2.5% increase in Medicaid disproportionate-share hospital payments for fiscal years 2020 and 2021.
Insurers also got a few of their priorities included: a two-month special enrollment period for Affordable Care Act exchanges and a 100% subsidy for COBRA coverage for nine months.
The White House on Thursday cited Hyde Amendment issues with Democrats’ COBRA subsidy idea as a reason the president would veto the bill, saying it undermines “the sanctity of life.”
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the nine-month 100% COBRA subsidy would cost $106 billion over 10 years.