Coronavirus Update: House Introduces the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201)

Bill includes new occupational safety standards for hospitals and requires public and private health care programs to cover COVID-19 testing at no cost to the patient

The House of Representatives yesterday released the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The House could vote on the package as soon as today.

The legislation would eliminate patient cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing and related services, establish an emergency paid leave program, and expand unemployment and nutrition assistance. Moreover, the bill would provide a temporary increase in the Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), and enable states to apply for temporary waivers to cover COVID-19 testing for the uninsured through the Medicaid program. Additionally, it would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to implement new temporary and permanent standards relying on airborne-focused precautions set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the 2007 SARS epidemic; however, COVID-19 is contact and droplet spread, not airborne spread.

AHA Take:
While the AHA appreciates Congress' efforts to address many important areas related to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are concerned about the OSHA provision referenced above. This provision would be impossible to implement in hospitals due to the severe lack of availability of N95 respirators. In addition, if this provision were implemented patients would feel the direct impact, as hospital inpatient capacity would be dramatically reduced. See more information in our Action Alert that urges House leaders to withdraw the provision from the bill.

Key Takeaways
Among other health care-related provisions, the package includes:

  • A plan to require OSHA to establish health care workplace standards based on the SARS epidemic.
  • Requirements for public and private health care programs to cover COVID-19 diagnostic testing and related services at no cost to patients.
  • A new option for states to expand limited Medicaid eligibility to the uninsured for the purpose of COVID-19 testing and related services.
  • An 8% increase to Medicaid FMAP during the COVID-19 emergency period.

A summary of select provisions included in the legislation follows under key resources.

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