House Health Chairs Highlight Key Health Provisions in The Heroes Act

May 12, 2020
Press Release

As originally released by the Committee on Education & Labor

WASHINGTON, DC – Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA), Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) applauded the introduction of H.R. 6800,  The Heroes Act,  in the House of Representatives today.  The Chairmen of the three Committees worked together to draft the health care provisions in the bill, which continue the House’s work of providing the necessary resources and support to respond to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. 

Among the key health provisions in the bill are the establishment of a national testing, contact tracing and surveillance strategy, provisions to ensure all Americans can seek treatment for COVID-19 without concern for cost, support for front line health care providers, expansion of affordable health coverage, enhanced vaccine manufacturing and distribution capacity, investments in public health infrastructure and new protections to keep nursing home patients safe.   

“The Heroes Act continues our ongoing commitment to providing the health care resources and support needed to combat the coronavirus crisis,” the Committee Chairmen said. “This legislation requires the Administration to finally develop comprehensive plans for robust testing and contact tracing and provides the funding necessary to implement it.  Our legislation ensures that everyone has access to health care coverage and can seek treatment for COVID-19 without any out-of-pocket costs.

“The bill will help us shore up our public health infrastructure for the long road ahead.  It provides additional resources to support our frontline health care providers, replenish much-needed medical supplies and prepare for the manufacturing and distribution of vaccines when they become available.

“Our top priority is the health and safety of the American people.  This legislation builds on the progress we have made and lays the foundation we will need in order to ease social distancing and safely reopen the economy.” 

The Heroes Act includes essential health care provisions that must be in place in order to keep the American people safe and limit the spread of the coronavirus, including:

Strengthening Comprehensive Testing and Contact Tracing by requiring an updated strategic testing plan with clear benchmarks and timelines and by providing $75 billion in grants to public health departments and workforce agencies to support testing, contact tracing, surveillance, and containment and mitigation activities with special consideration for hot spots and populations experiencing disparities.  The bill also requires public health departments to use culturally competent and multilingual strategies for contact tracing and provides for public awareness campaigns regarding COVID-19, access to diagnostic testing, and promoting participation in contact tracing strategies. 

Ensuring Access to COVID-19 Treatment Without Concern for Cost by eliminating cost sharing for COVID-19 treatment for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries as well as those covered by private health insurance, TRICARE, Veterans Affairs and the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program.  The bill increases payments to facilities that serve a high proportion of Medicaid patients, allows State Medicaid programs to cover the cost of COVID-19 treatment for uninsured patients and allows early enrollment in Medicaid for individuals soon to be released from prison to ensure they have access to care upon release.

Supporting Hospitals and Frontline Health Care Providers by infusing an additional $100 billion into the Health Care Provider Relief Fund along with requirements on allocation of such funding to ensure that funds are distributed to providers in an equitable and efficient way.  The bill also improves the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program that has been critical to keeping providers afloat for the past few months.

Providing Stable and Affordable Health Coverage for Millions of Americans by fully subsidizing the cost of COBRA and furloughed workers’ premiums to allow workers to maintain their employer-sponsored coverage if they lose employment, have their hours reduced, or are furloughed as a result of the pandemic.  The bill also establishes special enrollment periods for Medicare and for the Affordable Care Act marketplaces.

Investing in America’s Public Health Infrastructure by enhancing vaccine manufacturing capacity and requiring the creation of a plan to distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines once they are developed and authorized.  The bill also makes important supply chain improvements, such as strengthening reporting requirements for device and drug manufacturers to help respond to critical supply shortages and makes improvements to management of the Strategic National Stockpile.  

Protecting Vulnerable Patients in Nursing Homes by improving care at nursing facilities with funding for states to establish and deploy strike teams to help facilities manage outbreaks and assist with clinical care, infection control and staffing.  The bill also creates incentives to encourage the establishment of COVID-19-specific nursing home facilities, provides new safety and quality protections for patients and ensures facilities have a means for residents to conduct “televisitation” with loved ones while in-person visits are limited.

Supporting States’ Medicaid Programs by increasing the Federal Matching Assistance Percentage (FMAP) by 14 percentage points through June 30, 2021.  The legislation also increases the FMAP by 10 percentage points for state Medicaid services for patients in home and community-based care.  These increases are critical to states that are facing dire financial situations as a result of the pandemic and will allow them to continue providing critical services.  

Supporting Mental Health Care Needs by directing the National Institute of Mental Health to support research on the mental health consequences of COVID-19, including the impact on health care providers.  The bill also provides grants to support substance use disorder and behavioral health needs due to the COVID-19 crisis and establishes a center to support entities seeking to establish or expand access to mental health and substance use disorder services associated with the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Section-by-Section available here.

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