Key provisions in the House-passed HEROES Act
In May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed another legislative package to address the COVID-19 pandemic—the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. Unlike previous COVID-19 legislation, this bill was passed in the House mainly along party lines. Though its passage in the Senate is unlikely, aspects of the HEROES Act could serve as a starting point for lawmakers as they consider future legislation to address the ongoing health and economic impact of the pandemic.
The $3 trillion HEROES Act includes:
- Nearly $1 trillion for state, local, tribal and U.S. territory governments to assist them with the economic impacts of the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus.
- $100 billion for hospital and health care providers to assist them with lost revenue or additional expenses directly related to the public health emergency.
- $75 billion for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
- Additional direct payments of up to $1,200 per individual.
- An extension of federal unemployment compensation that was passed in previous COVID-19 legislation, including an extension of the $600 per week unemployment supplement through January 31, 2021.
- An extension of refundable payroll tax credits for paid sick and family leave established under previous COVID-19 legislation, through the end of 2021.
- An expansion of the previously enacted freeze on home evictions and foreclosures, and additional money for states and local governments to help renters and homeowners pay their rent and mortgages.
- Additional funding for food and nutrition programs, food banks and payments to farmers.
- Modifications and expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program, enacted in previous COVID-19 legislation, which provides loans and grants to small businesses and nonprofit organizations.
- The elimination of patient cost-sharing and out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 treatments for people with Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, TRICARE, Veterans Affairs health plans and private health insurance in the individual or group market.
- A 14% increase in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) payments to state Medicaid programs starting July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. The American Kidney Fund (AKF) recently signed on to a letter to Congress about this.
The HEROES Act also includes two health insurance protections that AKF has urged Congress to include in the next round of COVID-19 legislation. One is launching a special enrollment period for uninsured individuals so they can enroll in Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage through the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace. The second provision would provide premium subsidies to allow recently unemployed workers to maintain their employer-sponsored coverage through January 2021, if they are eligible for COBRA due to a layoff or reduction in hours, and for workers who have been furloughed but are still active in their employer-sponsored plan.
The HEROES Act does not contain a provision that would ban surprise medical bills, which is another issue AKF is urging Congress to include in the next COVID-19 legislative package. Surprise medical bills occur when a patient unknowingly receives care from an out-of-network provider; bills can amount to thousands—even tens of thousands—of dollars and be financially devastating to patients.