This week in Washington: COVID-19 relief bill negotiations begin in earnest; Congress works on Appropriations bills hoping to have them passed before government funding ends on Dec. 11.
Pelosi, Schumer Support Bipartisan $908B Pandemic Relief Proposal
On Dec. 2, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said they are endorsing a new compromise $908 billion pandemic relief bill as a framework for negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). The framework proposed by a bipartisan group of senators and supported by the House Problem Solvers Caucus is over 1 trillion dollars less than Democrats are seeking in the House-passed HEROES Act. It is over $400 billion more than Republicans sought in their most recent proposal. It is unclear when the proposal would be ready for a vote on the House or Senate floor, or if either leader would commit to calling it up to vote. Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) said he thinks there is a path forward with the current framework. Find the framework here.
Cardin, Portman, Thune, Menendez Introduce Legislation to Fund COVID-19 Vaccine Public Advocacy Campaign
On Dec. 3, Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Rob Portman (R-OH), John Thune (R-SD) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) introduced bipartisan legislation to fund a science-driven public advocacy campaign to ensure that when the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized an effective COVID-19 vaccine, distribution will properly occur throughout the country. This legislation would authorize necessary funding to fund a public awareness campaign on COVID-19 vaccine information through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Grants would go to entities to start developing campaigns that target all Americans, and that would begin no later than 30 days after a vaccine is authorized.
Warner: CMS Must Extend Enrollment Window over APTC Confusion
On Dec. 3, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) announced that he wants the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide more clarity to consumers, waive any enforcement penalties and create an open enrollment period to ensure enrollees do not go without coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic. CMS announced that Affordable Care Act enrollees who have reconciled their 2019 advanced premium tax credits (APTCs) as required can keep their 2021 subsidies, even if they were notified that they are at risk of losing them, by checking a box on their exchange application. Sen. Warner does not think that is enough to help enrollees, commenting that consumers remain confused about their options and are at risk of losing their health coverage during a pandemic.
Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.