New $3 Trillion COVID-19 Stimulus Could Impact Hospice

Legislation penned by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives could result in additional federal aid to hospices through the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund.

If enacted, the bill — the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act — would allocate an additional $175 billion to the fund, which is designed to provide financial relief to health care providers reeling from the COVID-19 outbreak. The bill would also increase funds fo unemployment benefits and send relief to other industries, families aand individuals, as well as ramp up virus testing. A House vote is expected before the end of the week.

“We must have empathy for our heroes, the health care workers, for how exhausted and how stressed they are in doing their jobs. Add to that, they may lose their jobs in this economy. We must also empathize with the pain of families who do not know where their next meals are coming from and how to pay next month’s rent,” said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi when introducing the bill. “The HEROES Act focuses on three pillars: opening our economy safely and soon; honoring our heroes; and, then, putting much-needed money into the pockets of the American people.”

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Previous legislation, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also called the CARES ACT, allocated $00 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund. An estimated $1 billion of that initial outlay is expected to go to hospice and palliative care providers via direct deposit. The amount each health care sector receives is based on a percentage of their annual Medicare reimbursement.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit hospices hard from an operational standpoint as well as financially. Hospices have been in dire need of additional supplies, with personal protective equipment (PPE) at the top of that list. The tremendous global demand for those products has driven up prices. Hospices have also had difficulty accessing patients, invest in new telehealth capabilities and cover paid leave for staff who have been exposed to the virus.

The bill has met with resistance from the Republican-controlled Senate. While the House bill will likely pass in its own chamber, the bill’s fate in the Senate is all but certain. Republicans have voiced concerns about the legislation’s price tag, which would be the largest economic relief package in U.S. history. The Senate is expected to put forth its own stimulus package in the coming weeks.

“I don’t think we have yet felt the urgency of acting immediately,” McConnell said.