On March 10, 2021, Congress finalized and passed the American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARP), the latest COVID-19 relief package that largely tracks President Biden’s initial $1.9 trillion proposal. The ARP extends unemployment insurance benefits and provides direct $1,400 stimulus payments to qualifying Americans, but it also makes several important health-policy-related changes. These include providing funding for vaccine distribution and testing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, making policy adjustments to the Medicaid program, facilitating health insurance coverage and providing more money for healthcare providers. The final bill also makes two narrowly focused technical Medicare payment changes.
In developing and finalizing the bill, Democrats used the budget reconciliation process to pass the bill with only Democratic support. This process limited what could be included. The version that was signed into law ultimately removed a provision to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour because it failed to meet reconciliation rules.
This summary highlights notable health policy provisions of the final bill.