COVID-19 Pandemic Stimulus Packages:
Will Phase 4 Actually Happen? On May 12, 2020 House Democrats introduced H.R. 6800, The HEROES Act. The bill is essentially a $3 trillion wish list for Democrats that has little to no chance of becoming law as it does not have the support of the Republican controlled Senate. Additionally, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated that he will take a wait and see posture as not all of the funds from stimulus package 3, the CARES Act, have been doled out. However, slow movement from Majority Leader McConnell does not indicate Congressional inaction. There are provisions in the HEROES Act that have bipartisan support including many of the health provisions. Additionally, there is increased pressure to include price-gouging language in any COVID-19 package moving forward from both Democrats and Republicans. COVID-19 stimulus phases 1-3.5 and the health provisions in the HEROES Act can be found by reading the full Monthly Legislative Newsletter for June 2020.
The State of Hospitals across the United States
It is estimated that hospitals are losing $60 billion a month due to deferred procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent Modern Healthcare article, reports indicated that outpatient care is down by 55% over the last 2 months. While the patient populations have not gone away, they are overwhelmingly putting off procedures until it is deemed more safe to seek care at hospitals. Another question facing hospital administrators is who is liable should a patient who is having an elective surgery contract the Coronavirus. Large hospital interest groups such as the American Hospital Association are pushing for liability protections in the next stimulus package. It is expected that Republican leaders will make this a condition of the next vehicle – as other industries are requesting similar protections.
Which Hospitals are Receiving Bailout Funding?
Currently, only $7.5 billion of the now $175 billion of funding for hospitals has been doled out by the federal government and disclosed to the public. This number will continue to rise as time goes on and more hospitals file disclosures. Additionally, in the HEROES Act legislation, an additional $100 billion was appropriated to hospitals to make up for lost revenue. It is unlikely that the HEROES Act becomes law, however it is likely that any comprehensive stimulus package contains more bailout funding. Axios has created a hospital bailout tracker that you can view HERE.
Price Gouging in the age of COVID-19
Up until the last few weeks, price gouging has taken a back seat to other issues on Capitol Hill. However, there has been a flurry by both Congress and the Trump Administration to address the problem whether through a COVID-19 stimulus package or standalone legislation. A dramatic increase in price gouging legislation introduced by both Democrats and Republicans, along with President Trump indicating to Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, that he would like to make a renewed push makes imminent action more likely. An updated list of all of the price gouging legislation is detailed below.