The U.S. House of Representatives passed a fourth COVID package, the HEROES Act, on May 15 on a largely partisan vote of 208 to 199, with Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation splitting along partisan lines. The legislation includes nearly $3 trillion in new spending and is not expected to be taken up by the U.S. Senate, but will serve as the “opening salvo” for negotiations between House Democrats and Senate Republicans, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Senate has signaled it is unlikely to act on another COVID relief package until June.
The HEROES Act includes a number of funding items for health care providers, including adding another $100 billion to the provider relief fund that has already sent out approximately $75 billion to hospitals, health systems and other health care providers. With $100 billion remaining in that fund from the previously enacted CARES legislation, this new bill would call for the $200 billion from that fund to be distributed via a new formula that pays health care providers based on new expenses attributable to the COVID response as well as lost revenue. It would also be weighted to send more dollars to hospitals with a higher share of Medicaid and Medicare patients.
Additionally, the legislation would send another trillion dollars to state and local governments and proposes the following health care funding provisions:
- Help maintain private insurance coverage by covering COBRA premiums for nine months and allowing additional enrollment in the Obamacare exchanges.
- Allow affiliated CAHs to be eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program.
- Lower the interest rate for Medicare Accelerated/Advance payments from 10.25% to 1% and give hospitals an additional year to repay.
- Provide bonus funding of $5K-$10K for “Healthcare Heroes” – frontline health care workers.
U.S. Senate majority leadership has indicated it first wants a further accounting of funds expended via the CARES Act before moving forward on future legislation. WHA has been focusing its federal advocacy efforts with Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation on the impact CARES dollars have made for our state’s hospitals. While the funding approved thus far has been helpful, WHA is advocating for additional assistance due to significant funding gaps that remain and are anticipated to continue into the future.
Please contact WHA’s Director of Federal and State Relations, Jon Hoelter, with questions.