This week in Washington: House committees hold budget reconciliation markups for COVID-19.
Ways & Means Finishes Markup of COVID-19 Relief Measures
On Feb. 11, the House Ways & Means Committee cleared its piece of the House’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 package, which would increase Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax credits, provide maximum credits to anyone on unemployment in 2021, subsidize COBRA and offer tax relief to those who would otherwise have to return ACA subsidy overpayments. The bill was reported out of committee, 25-18, ahead of the Feb. 16, 2021, deadline. Find more information and the full text here.
Education and Labor Finishes Markup of COVID-19 Relief Measures
On Feb. 8, the House Education and Labor committee cleared its piece of the House’s budget reconciliation, $1.9 trillion COVID-19 package. Among the committee’s additions is a provision that allows workers who are eligible for COBRA due to involuntary termination or reduction in hours to receive coverage under their employment-based health plan with a premium reduction of 85 percent. Premium assistance will be available to workers beginning the first month following the date of enactment and will remain available through Sept. 30, 2021.
The provision also permits for an extended election period to allow individuals who previously experienced a qualifying event to enroll in coverage. In addition, employers are required to provide clear and understandable written notices to workers and establishes an expedited review process for workers who are denied premium assistance. It also allows for a payroll tax credit to allow employers and plans to be reimbursed for the full amount of COBRA premiums not paid by workers. Find more information and a section-by-section summary here.
Energy and Commerce Finishes Markup of COVID-19 Relief Measures
On Feb. 12, the House Energy and Commerce Committee cleared its piece of the House’s budget reconciliation package. The Energy and Commerce budget reconciliation package includes titles on public health Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The package includes provisions authorizing:
- $14 billion for vaccines;
- $46 billion for testing, contact tracing, and mitigation;
- $7.6 billion to hire 100,000 full time public health workers to support COVID-19 response;
- $25 billion to address health disparities and protect vulnerable populations;
- $4 billion for behavioral and mental health services;
- $5 billion to help families pay their energy and water bills; and
- $7.6 billion to expand internet connectivity for students and teachers without internet access.
No Republican amendments were accepted in the mark up. Find more information here.
Adams, Booker, Underwood Release the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act to Address America’s Maternal Health Crisis
On Feb. 8, Reps. Alma Adams (D-NC) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus released the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021. The legislation builds on existing maternal health legislation and the Black Maternal Health Momnibus of 2020 with 12 bills to address the drivers of the maternal health crisis. The legislation makes investments in addressing social determinants of health, funding community-based organizations, growing and diversifying the perinatal workforce and improving data collection processes. It also addresses the impacts of COVID-19 and climate change on maternal and infant health. Find more information here.
Grassley, Ernst Ask Biden Administration to Release Vaccine Allocation Statistics
On Feb. 9, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) requested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to publicly release its weekly formula for allocating vaccines to states and other jurisdictions. The purpose of the request is to ensure transparency in the vaccine distribution process. The request asks CDC to publish this information in a simple format for every week of allocated vaccines and each state’s weekly pro-rata share of vaccine allocations. Find the letter here.
Read more on healthcare policy from McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.