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Capitol Correspondence - 04.28.20

Congress Passes Interim COVID-19 Relief Bill

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As reported by Axios:

“President Trump signed a $484 billion interim coronavirus relief bill on Friday that will add another $310 billion to the small-business Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), as well as provide billions in aid to hospitals and for testing. [ANCOR note: the article’s mention of “hospitals” refers to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund. ANCOR is urging HHS to distribute funding from the Emergency Fund to Medicaid providers – see our press release and action tool.]

What’s next: Now that the bill has been signed into law, Congress and the Trump administration will focus on how quickly that money, particularly the replenished PPP funds, can get out the door.

  • Conversations over a much larger phase-four deal are also underway, but there is division over what that bill should look like.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated that, unlike the interim bill, any new stimulus measure must be negotiated in person.
  • He’s also thrown cold water on the push to deliver more funding to state and local governments — a top Democratic demand — instead saying they should file for bankruptcy protection if needed.
  • Meanwhile, Democrats have laid out several other priorities for a phase-four bill, including more funding for rental assistance, election integrity, a Heroes’ fund and the U.S. Postal Service.

[…]

Details: The vast majority of the funds — $310 billion — is for replenishing the PPP, which dried up last week. Roughly $60 billion of that total will be allocated to small lenders and community banks. The rest includes:

  • $60 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which reaches communities and small businesses in underserved areas.
  • $75 billion for hospitals. [See ANCOR note above.]
  • $25 billion to expand testing.”

Hospitals ‘utterly perplexed’

So far Congress has delivered $175 billion to hospitals and health care providers, but the convoluted process has left hospitals and even some Washington insiders confused. That’s led to fears of uneven assistance, particularly for hospitals serving poor patients on Medicaid. The administration has said some of the dollars will go to these providers, but hasn’t yet detailed how much. An HHS spokesperson said far more dollars will go to these providers in the next funding rounds, but the administration hasn’t clarified how much.

Big hospital chains that see the most elderly patients have so far received the most federal funds; executives of the for-profit conglomerate HCA Health Care told investors this week they received a whopping $700 million.

Health officials have defended their decision to use a formula relying on total Medicare revenue as a speedy way to push money out the door, but individual hospitals still don’t understand how exactly the administration calculated their checks. HHS has altered its formula for the next batch of money, which also includes billions for rural areas and hot spots.

‘We are all utterly perplexed trying to figure out what the hell this formula is and how it’s going to work,’ one health care consultant said. ‘They could be sending out checks today, and we truly don’t know how they’re doing it.’

Mystery also shrouds a pot of money that’s supposed to cover coronavirus treatment for the uninsured — a policy the White House touted as an efficient and targeted alternative to offering a special Obamacare sign-up. HHS has banned any hospital that dips into this fund from also charging patients but hasn’t specified how much money is available, nor have officials told the uninsured how to seek recourse if they do see medical bills.”