McDermottPlus Healthcare Preview: Week of February 16

POST-IMPEACHMENT AND THE REST OF 2021.

HOUSE FINALIZES COVID-19 RELIEF PACKAGE. Last week, House committees marked up their respective pieces of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that Democrats are preparing to pass through reconciliation. Although Republicans introduced numerous amendments throughout the markups, the packages advanced out of committee along party lines without including any changes from Republicans. This week, the House Budget Committee will work to combine the various pieces of the package into a single bill. It is expected that the House will vote on the COVID-19 relief package next week. Once the bill passes the House (as is expected), it will head to the Senate. The question remains how the Senate will add or subtract from the version that will pass the House. Democrats are aiming to give President Biden a package by mid-March, prior to the expiration of the additional COVID-19 unemployment benefits.

WHAT’S NEXT AFTER COVID-19 RELIEF? As we plan for the rest of the year, there are a number of large items that Congress must act on. Most importantly, Congress must address the debt limit. The debt limit expires on July 31, 2021, but Congress has to begin taking action to address it in the second quarter. With the Congressional Budget Office releasing a new report that projects that the nation’s annual deficits will reach 102% of gross domestic product at the end of 2021, we expect that Republicans will start agitating on our debt after the passage of the COVID-19 package. Also needing to be addressed in the second quarter are the Medicare sequester and the Accelerated and Advance Payments (AAP). On March 31, 2021, the Medicare sequester moratorium will end and, if not extended, will result in cuts to physician Medicare payment. Additionally, providers have received AAP loans from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to help ease financial strain and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Providers will have to start repaying these loans in the spring if Congress does not address the repayment and recoupment policies and timeline. Finally, there is the option for Congress to utilize a second reconciliation package. Although its passage will not come to fruition until the end of the third quarter/ beginning of the fourth quarter, Congress will begin working on it soon after the COVID-19 reconciliation package is passed.

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