As the country continues to grapple with rapidly changing circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, Congress has passed, and the president has signed, a third legislative relief package aimed at providing economic support and protection as well as funding to help front-line healthcare practitioners and government agencies address the ongoing crisis.
What’s in the CARES Act?
The “Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act,” is a $2.2 trillion package, primarily focused on giving direct payments to taxpayers, enhancing unemployment benefits and providing loans and grants to airlines and other affected businesses. The legislation also includes tax credits and loans for businesses to help cover payroll costs and insurance premiums, and, importantly, provides $172.1 billion in direct aid to hospitals and other healthcare practitioners.
How does it support healthcare?
The CARES Act sets aside a significant amount of funding for healthcare to bolster the U.S. response as this emergency continues. Key healthcare provisions include:
Which federal agencies get funds?
As the country navigates through the crisis certain federal agencies are critical to an effective response. The CARES Act outlines additional funding, including $4.3 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to support federal, state and local public health agencies as they prevent, prepare and respond to the coronavirus and $945 million to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support research.
Additionally, $200 million is earmarked for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to assist nursing homes with infection control and support state efforts to prevent the spread in these facilities. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will get $275 million, including $185 million directed to support critical access hospitals in rural communities, tribal health and rural telehealth programs and poison control centers.
And, combined, more than $1.7 billion is directed to aid in response efforts from the Administration for Community Living (ACL), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Is this enough?
Overall, BCBS companies strongly support this package as another important step in the U.S. response to the COVID-19 crisis. Given the unknowns about the scope, severity and duration of the outbreak, there will be additional legislation needed in the future. See our recommendations for additional action.