President Donald Trump declared a state of national emergency under the Stafford Act (P.L. 110-707) on March 13.
In an address from the White House, the president indicated that he would waive certain rules to give hospitals and providers the maximum ability to respond to the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. He also indicated that he would work with the private sector to increase drive-through testing for COVID-19.
The president’s declaration frees up billions of federal dollars for state relief efforts and eases certain restrictions on federal programs to respond to the emergency at hand. The AAMC recommended that the president declare a national emergency in a March 11 letter to the vice president and congressional leaders (see related story). Additional guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services is expected shortly.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on March 11 released a second legislative supplemental relief package aimed at easing the effects of COVID-19. The legislation, titled the Families First Coronavirus Act (H.R. 6201), seeks to build on the first supplemental legislation signed by the president on March 6 [see Washington Highlights, March 6] and legislators intend for it to “bolster the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak and address the severe impacts of the coronavirus on Americans’ personal safety and financial security.”
Upon release of the package, Speaker Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and other congressional leaders resumed negotiations to address issues raised by congressional Republicans. The House is expected to vote on the package on March 13, but as of this writing, the House had not yet released the revised legislation or voted on the bill.
Key provisions of the original legislation, as released on March 11, would:
- Make states eligible for an 8% increase in their federal medical assistance percentages (FMAP) and not impose additional eligibility standards or premiums in their Medicaid programs.
- Allow states to cover testing for the uninsured through their Medicaid programs at 100% FMAP.
- Require insurers, including both public and private payers, to cover COVID-19 tests and related services without cost-sharing or prior authorization requirements.
- Create an emergency paid leave program and emergency sick leave programs.
- Provide $1 billion for the National Disaster Medical System to reimburse costs to test uninsured individuals.
- Provide funding for federal nutrition programs and authorize certain Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and school meal waivers.
- Authorize emergency transfers of up to $1 billion for states to process and pay unemployment benefits in 2020.
The Senate has not yet set a timeline for consideration, though it is expected they will act quickly. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced on March 12 that the Senate would be cancelling its upcoming recess to work on passing a second supplemental package.
Congressional leaders have openly discussed the potential for a third supplemental relief package in the coming weeks.