March 27, 2020
Congress Passes Phase 3 Stimulus Legislation with Funding for Physician Practices
After a marathon week of negotiations, lawmakers reached a deal on a nearly $2 trillion emergency relief package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the largest stimulus bill in U.S. history. The CARES Act (H.R. 748) directs $100 billion to an emergency fund for eligible physicians and hospitals and provides additional low-interest and small business loan support to businesses combatting the COVID-19 outbreak.
For specific information about economic relief for anesthesiology practices, please see ASA’s resources.
In addition to the $100 billion in funds, the CARES Act includes a temporary suspension of the Medicare sequester. The sequester will be suspended from May 1 through December 31, 2020. Under sequestration, the government took back 2% of the payment it issued for each covered services. Under this suspension, that process will be discontinued. The CARES Act also continues many healthcare extensions such as maintaining the Geographic Practice Cost Index (GPCI) work floor of 1.00. These extenders were to expire on May 22, 2020 and will now remain in place through November 30, 2020. Extension of the work GPCI prevents a decreased payment in specific Medicare locales. There are also limitations on liability for volunteer health care professionals providing services during the emergency, and programs through the Small Business Administration for economic relief in the bill. Also important to physicians are provisions that provide relief for student loan borrowers— deferment of loan payments, principal, and interest for 6 months, through September 30, 2020, without penalty to the borrower for all federally owned loans.
ASA is pleased the CARES Act includes S.2723, the Mitigating Emergency Drug Shortages Act, or the MEDS Act. ASA and other stakeholders worked closely with Senate leaders to advance this legislation. The MEDS Act provides increased authority to the FDA, enhanced manufacturing reporting requirements, and new market-based incentives to help mitigate the risks drug shortages pose to our patients and the healthcare system.
President Trump previously signed two coronavirus emergency legislative packages into law. Phase 1, H.R. 6074, The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding to federal agencies for coronavirus prevention, preparation, and response efforts. Phase 2, H.R. 6201, The Families First Coronavirus Response Act expanded COVID-19 testing and provides paid sick leave and unemployment benefits for workers and families.
ASA expects work to begin on a Phase 4 bill in the near future. ASA priorities will remain additional funding to offset for revenue losses to physician practices and increased payments for anesthesia and critical care services.