Congress Passed “Phase Three” Stimulus Bill. Last week, Congress approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the largest stimulus bill in US history in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The nearly $2 trillion emergency relief package directs $100 billion to an emergency fund for eligible healthcare providers and provides additional low-interest and small business loan support to businesses combatting the COVID-19 outbreak. Other key provisions boost Medicare reimbursement for COVID-19-related inpatient services and generally, expand testing and treatment coverage, and provide additional regulatory relief for providers.
How Does the Government Spend $2 Trillion? Now that Congress has appropriated the money, it is up to the federal agencies to determine the process for distributing it. For those of us in the healthcare space, the biggest question is how the Department of Health and Human Services will distribute the $100 billion emergency fund for providers. That process will be our focus this week.
“Phase Four” is Already in the Works. After passing the CARES Act, the Senate announced a recess until at least April 20. However, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he may call the Senate back into session if circumstances warrant. The House is also adjourned indefinitely and has not announced a date for members to return to Washington. With the national social distancing recommendation now extended to April 30, it is unlikely that Congress will reconvene before that date unless the emergency situation warrants immediate action. However, just because members are not physically here does not mean the negotiations stop. Work is already underway on a fourth relief and support bill, which will likely include some brand new provisions as well as address provisions of the first three bills that need to be fixed or supplemented.
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