Senate Republicans unveiled their plan this week for a roughly $1 trillion coronavirus aid package with relatively few health policy provisions compared to the $3.5 trillion HEROES Act (HR 6800) passed by the House in May. The legislation serves as the GOP’s opening bid in negotiations with Democrats, who have rejected the measure; however, an array of health care provisions – many contained in the HEROES Act– remain in play as leaders hope to get a final deal passed by the end of next week, before the scheduled August recess.
Healthcare and workplace provisions in the Senate Republican proposal would:
In addition, the legislation shields employers from “coronavirus exposure action” claims through Oct. 1, 2024, if they make “reasonable efforts” to comply with public health guidelines and don’t engage in “gross negligence or willful misconduct”.
Not included in the Senate measure are counterparts to key HEROES Act provisions including fully subsidized COBRA continuation coverage, a requirement that health plans cover COVID-19 treatment without cost-sharing, or financial aid to protect sponsors of self-funded health plans from surges in COVID-19 related claims costs. These issues and others, however – such as stopping surprise medical bills – will be subject to negotiations on a final package.
Those negotiations look set to take longer than negotiators want. The two parties appear miles apart on extending federal jobless benefits that expire this week and other major policy matters.