Congress has been working to address the ever-evolving challenges associated with the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), from healthcare coverage to resources for the newly unemployed. Fight CRC is keeping a close eye on the policies that could impact our community, and we’ve been working with our advocacy partners to ensure that the patient voice is represented on Capitol Hill.
To date, four separate legislative packages have been signed into law. There is a lot to sort through, so Fight CRC has compiled the provisions of each package that are most relevant to you.
Bill #1: Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act
The first coronavirus-related bill that Congress passed was in early March and included $8.3 billion in emergency funding. That funding was directed to:
- Support the development of vaccines, treatments, and tests for coronavirus
- Allow the Food & Drug Administration to speed the review of these therapies
- State and local governments for costs associated with preparing for and addressing coronavirus
- Purchase medical supplies for state and local health departments
- Community health centers to ensure they can continue to care for patients
- Allow Medicare patients to use telehealth to consult with their doctors at no cost
For additional information on this legislation, click HERE.
Bill #2: Families First Coronavirus Response Act
A little over a week later, Congress passed their second piece of legislation to address the coronavirus called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The legislation includes:
- Free access to coronavirus testing
- Additional paid sick leave days for those impacted by quarantine orders or those who must stay at home to care for children
- A new paid leave program to provide eligible workers with two-thirds of their average monthly earnings if they are unable to work because they are caring for a child due to coronavirus-related school closings
- Additional funding for state unemployment insurance programs
- Funding for food banks, federal nutrition assistance programs, assistance for children who normally receive lunch at school, and meal delivery services for senior citizens
Click HERE for a summary of the legislation provided by the House Appropriations Committee.
Bill #3: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
During the last week of March, Congress passed its third and largest coronavirus package to date. This bill was focused on addressing the economic toll of the coronavirus. It includes the following provisions:
- One-time recovery checks of $1,200 per individual, $2,400 per couple and $500 per eligible child capped at an income level of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples
- Expanded unemployment benefits to the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, and others
- Additional benefits for each recipient of unemployment insurance for up to four months and an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits after state benefits are exhausted
- Students are able to defer federal student loan payments for 6 months
- $100 billion for hospitals and health care workers to address coronavirus care
- Funding to procure personal protection equipment (PPE), ventilators, and medical supplies for hospitals and healthcare workers
- Additional funding for community health centers
- Removes limits on refills under Medicare so patients can access 90-day supplies of their medications
Click HERE for a summary of the legislation provided by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Bill #4: Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act
In late April Congress passed the fourth piece of legislation related to coronavirus relief that is intended to shore up several of the programs created in previous bills including:
- $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program designed to help small businesses keep their workers employed
- $75 billion for hospitals and providers
- $22 million for the Food and Drug Administration to support activities related to coronavirus response
- $25 billion to increase coronavirus testing capacity
- Requires the Department of Health and Human Services to submit monthly reports on testing data including demographic information
Both the House and the Senate came briefly back into session to pass the fourth coronavirus bill, and it is unclear when they will return. However, discussions have already begun on a fifth legislative package that would likely include additional funding for state and local governments.
Fight CRC has been working closely with our partners in the patient community to ensure that the unique needs of cancer patients are considered in future legislative efforts. We recently joined 50 other cancer organizations urging Congress to:
- Prohibit health plans from requiring higher out-of-pocket costs for oral anticancer medications than the cost-sharing required for physician-administered anticancer treatments
- Require private and public health plans to allow beneficiaries to receive a 90-day supply of medications and provide flexible payment options
- Create a special enrollment period for those who have lost their health insurance due to coronavirus to enroll through healthcare.gov
- Allow individuals to extend employer-sponsored health coverage
- Provide NIH with additional funding to address the research being impacted by COVID
Have any questions about any of the information above? Are there other issues that our policymakers should be hearing about? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. To stay up to date on the latest information, sign up HERE. We will update this post as additional information becomes available.