On March 16, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed corrections to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), which was originally passed by the House on March 14, 2020. On March 19, the Senate passed the legislation on a bipartisan basis, 90 to 8, and President Donald Trump signed the bill into law later that day.
As discussed in a previous McGuireWoods legal alert, the new law will provide certain sick leave benefits, expand food assistance and unemployment benefits, revise certain tax provisions related to the same and provide additional appropriations for efforts in the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 116-123). The law will also provide free COVID-19 testing for most healthcare consumers, which both the administration and Congress have deemed a national priority.
Shortly after passing the bill late last week, the House made “technical” corrections and sent the revised legislation to the Senate. As part of these corrections, several proposals were changed, including but not limited to emergency Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, increased medical allotments and coverage for the uninsured, and sick and family leave benefits.
Read on for five key things healthcare providers should know about the recent revisions made to the legislation immediately before passage.
- Emergency OSHA Standards No Longer Included. As originally passed by the House, the legislation would have required promulgation of new OSHA emergency temporary standards for employers in the healthcare sector within one month of enactment. These standards would have required healthcare providers to develop and implement comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plans. Notably, the revised legislation removed the requirement that healthcare providers implement these emergency OSHA standards in its entirety.
- Increased Medicaid Allotments and Coverage for the Uninsured Remain, but With Some Changes. Under the initial bill, the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for Medicaid would have increased by 8 percent for each state and certain territories for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. As revised, the FMAP will increase by only 6.2 percent. States will still need to meet certain conditions to receive the FMAP increase. The revised bill continues to cover 100 percent of the cost of any uninsured individual enrolled in the Medicaid program for purposes of the COVID-19 diagnostic testing, while also maintaining $1 billion to remain available for coverage of certain services related to COVID-19 diagnostic testing and related services/visits for uninsured individuals.
- Clarification That Coverage for Testing of COVID-19 Includes Certain Telehealth Visits. Consistent with the original bill, the law ensures that healthcare consumers are not charged for items and services furnished during a healthcare provider office visit that occurs in conjunction with a COVID-19 diagnostic test. The revised bill clarifies that this includes both in-person visits and telehealth visits. The revised legislation still does not extend coverage to follow-up medical care that may be required based on COVID-19 test results.
- Changes to Proposed Sick and Family Leave Benefits. Although the law still creates new emergency sick and family-care leave benefits for certain employees, the House rolled back these benefits in several key aspects, including, but not limited to, paid family leave being offered only to parents caring for children who are home due to school closures and carve-outs for small businesses (including healthcare providers) with less than 50 employees. McGuireWoods’ labor and employment team prepared guidance for employers in light of these changes. Healthcare providers should carefully review this guidance to determine how the bill could affect operations and employee benefits.
- Additional Changes to Certain Appropriations, Including Provisions for Veterans’ Health. The revised bill sets aside $60 million to remain available until Sept. 30, 2022, for certain medical services and medical community care (as further defined in the bill) of veterans related to COVID-19 testing. The revised bill also makes $64 million available until Sept. 30, 2022, for Indian Health Services for similar COVID-19-related items and services.
Next Steps. Now that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act has become law, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has announced that a third bill is already being discussed as a larger economic stimulus package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Please contact the authors for additional information on how this revised legislation could affect the delivery of patient care and the operation of healthcare providers. McGuireWoods has published additional thought leadership related to how companies across various industries can address crucial coronavirus-related business and legal issues, and the firm’s COVID-19 Response Team stands ready to help clients navigate urgent and evolving legal and business issues arising from the novel coronavirus pandemic.