July 31, 2020
The Senate Republican COVID-19 bill includes a number of important health care provisions that may make it into the final legislation, including several provisions the American Health Policy Institute has been advocating for this year.
The Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act—a combination of eight Senate bills— would:
The HEALS Act would also increase federal spending for testing, contact tracing, and surveillance ($16 billion), mental health and substance abuse services ($4.5 billion), and community health centers that will help address racial inequities ($7.6 billion).
A fix to surprise medical billing practices was not included in the GOP bill, but advocacy efforts to have the issue addressed in the final legislation continue. The House-passed bill includes COBRA subsidies and a prohibition on balance billing for COVID-19 testing and treatment that could make it into the final measure.
Outlook: Senate Republicans are not completely unified on some provisions in the HEALS Act and Democrats have declared the proposal a non-starter. Congressional leadership has met with administration officials to air their differences and see where they agree, but talks are likely to continue for the next two or three weeks.