COVID-19 Federal Response Update – Wednesday, April 1, 2020

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By Capitol Associates, Inc. 

Congress

  • Will Phase IV legislation focus on infrastructure spending? Both President Trump and Speaker Pelosi expressed their desire for Phase IV to include infrastructure spending.
    • President Trump specifically wants to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure.
    • Speaker Pelosi outlined a bill that spends $760 billion on several priorities of which infrastructure is one. Speaker Pelosi also listed community health centers, broadband and education, among other things, as priorities.
    • House and Senate Republican Leadership are open to a Phase IV bill but they prefer to give the CARES Act more time to take effect before drafting the next bill.
    • Many industries are advocating for assistance in the next bill. For example, hospitals want $25,000 per bed.

White House and Federal Agencies

  • President Trump issued a forceful warning about the danger posed by the coronavirus. His warning stated that anywhere from 100,000 to 240,000 people could die from COVID-19. The White House is trying to prepare the public for more tragic news that is expected throughout April as the number of cases and deaths is expected to increase – perhaps to a peak.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has created a new Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program (CTAP) to expedite reviews and requests related to COVID-19 treatments.
  • The U.S. Strategic National Stockpile of medical equipment such as ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) is almost completely distributed. The CARES Act provided $16 billion to restock the Strategic National Stockpile. To date, the stockpile has distributed 8,000 ventilators and 26 million protective masks.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will not reopen the federal health insurance exchanges for a special enrollment period to allow people to enroll in health insurance coverage. Some states that operate their own exchanges have created special enrollment periods. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) still allows people to enroll in health coverage through the federal or state exchanges if they experience a qualifying life event such as losing their job.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services issued an open letter that approves the use of ventilators on two patients at once as a last resort if all other options have been exhausted.
  • Not only are ventilators in short supply. The drugs patients are given when they are placed on ventilators are also running low.
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially announced a $200 million telehealth program to support healthcare providers responding to the ongoing pandemic. Congress appropriated the funds as part of the CARES Act. This program will allow the FCC to help health care providers purchase telecommunications, broadband connectivity, and devices necessary for providing telehealth services.

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