May 15, 2020
The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed “The Heroes Act” (HR 6800) a comprehensive $3 trillion package to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership, and outlines their priorities for a new COVID relief bill.
The measure does not have the support of Senate Republicans but will catalyze future negotiations between the House, Senate and the Trump Administration. Both Republicans and Democrats have acknowledged the need for a fifth bill, which will likely be voted on in June to address the ongoing health care and financial crises the country is facing.
The Heroes Act reflects many of the top priorities of the California Medical Association (CMA). Among the most significant provisions in the bill are increases in federal Medicaid funding and an additional $100 billion in direct aid to physicians and hospitals that does not need to be repaid.
The Heroes Act also:
- Provides a $100 billion increase to the HHS Provider Relief Fund (for a total of $275 billion) with a more equitable formula that would reimburse physicians on a quarterly basis for 100% of their expenses related to COVID-19 and 60% of revenue losses from all payers compared to last year. Reinstates the Medicare Advance Payment Program with a lower 1% interest rate and an extended repayment timeline retroactive to March 1.
- Increases federal Medicaid matching funds to states by 14% through June 2021 to help prevent State Medi-Cal cuts; Increases federal match by 10% for States that keep patients in home-health and community-based care; and Increases Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital payments.
- Provides $1 trillion in funding to state and local government, $75 billion to states to support testing and contact tracing and substantial support for public health.
- Protects the supply of International Medical Graduates, provides medical student loan relief, and includes the CMA-sponsored bill to allow more California physicians access to the federal public service loan forgiveness program.
- Expands public and private coverage for COVID-19 related treatment and telehealth with patient cost-sharing waivers. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the passage of this bill would offset the need for state budget cuts. Without federal aid, California is facing a budget shortfall of more than $54 billion. Newsom has proposed a series of cuts to health care and other programs to bridge that gap, and said that assistance from the federal government will be needed to avoid those reductions.
“Speaker Pelosi’s ‘Heroes Act’ prioritizes essential needs of states, physicians, and other health care providers who are on the front lines fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” said CMA President Peter N. Bretan, M.D. “We know that this is not only a health care crisis, but an economic one, and sending direct aid to states is the best way to help minimize the impact from COVID-19 and to ensure that aid flows quickly to where it is needed most.”