The House has passed via voice vote a $2 trillion stimulus and relief package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
. The nearly 900-page legislation, which the Senate advanced unanimously early Thursday morning, is the third major economic assistance package Congress has passed in response to the COVID-19 in just the last three weeks. As we all adapt and respond to this pandemic, it can be difficult to stay abreast of the latest developments from Capitol Hill, let alone synthesize what they may mean for our patients and practices. With that in mind, we wanted to provide you with a high-level overview of components of each legislative package that may be of particular interest to NASS membership and the spine care community.
PHASE III PACKAGE - Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
PHASE II – Families First Corona Virus Act
- Provides Economic assistance to health care providers by temporarily lifting the Medicare sequester, which reduces payments to providers by 2 percent, from May 1 through December 31, 2020, boosting payments for hospitals and physicians.
- Funds a new loan product within the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide qualified small businesses and non-profits up to $10 million to help cover payroll and overhead costs, with expanded loan forgiveness criteria.
- Provides $100 billion in direct financial support to qualifying hospitals, physician practices, and other health care providers under the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund.
- Grants authority for the Secretary of HHS to waive telehealth coverage requirements for new patients during a national emergency and for enhanced use of telehealth under Medicare for federally qualified health centers.
- Applies Good Samaritan protections for which we've long advocated to volunteers serving COVID-19 patients for the duration of the public health emergency.
PHASE I - Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act
- Provides for no cost sharing or medical management techniques for COVID-19 testing and services related to testing for private health plans, Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid or CHIP plans.
- Clarifies Medicare telehealth provisions to ensure that new Medicare beneficiaries are able to access telehealth services under the emergency authority granted to the Secretary
- Amends the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to provide qualified small business employees with the right take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave if the employee due to a need for leave to care for a child.
- Mandates that employers with fewer than 500 employees provide employees two weeks of paid sick leave, paid at the employee’s regular rate, to quarantine or seek a diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus.
- Allocates $2.2 billion for the CDC, including $950 million for state and local preparedness grants, and $300 million for the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund.
- Allocates $836 million for the National Institutes of Health, $10 million of which is to be set aside for worker-based training to prevent and reduce exposure to health workers.
- Provides $61 million for the Food and Drug Administration to respond to coronavirus, including developing medical products.
In the days ahead, we will strive to keep you informed of the latest legislative and regulatory developments, and also provide a number of resources to guide your patients and practice during this time. Specifically, please keep an eye out for resources related to applying for, and accessing, the new economic support appropriated by Congress. You can also track updates at WWW.SPINE.ORG/COVID-19
Please also be sure to reach out to NASS Advocacy and Health Policy staff (email@example.com
) with any questions or to let us know how we can work with Congress and the Administration to aid you during these challenging times.
Stay healthy and safe,
William Sullivan, MD
President, North American Spine Society