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Press Release

Walden Statement on House Passage of CARES Act


03.27.20

Washington, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) released the following statement after joining his House colleagues to pass the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to bring much-needed relief to American workers, businesses, and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This week, Congress and President Trump sent an important message: help is on the way. The relief provided in this bipartisan bill is vital to American health care providers, seniors, workers, businesses, and families – but it is overdue. I hope as this public health crisis evolves, we can put the political swords down, focus on finding solutions and prove to the American people that we are in it together,” Walden said. 

Background:

The CARES Act represents the third Congressional response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency relief package provides tax rebates, expanded unemployment benefits, and numerous tax-relief provisions aimed at shoring up individual, family, and business finances, among other provisions. It passed the Senate on Wednesday and is now on its way to the president’s desk to become law.

Provisions Under the Jurisdiction of E&C by Subcommittee

Communications & Technology

FCC Telehealth Funding: $200 million to the FCC for telehealth services and devices in a separate fund from the existing Rural Health Care program.

Energy and Environment & Climate Change

Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Delays a mandatory 2020 sale of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) through 2022.

Disinfectant Registration:  $1.5 million to EPA to expedite the registration of disinfectants for the coronavirus.  This will help get disinfectants to market more quickly to protect the public from COVID-19 and prevent its further spread.

DOE Supercomputing For COVID-19 Research:  $99.5 million dollars for DOE to facilitate access to its facilities and resources (including the National Labs) for research and analysis related to the COVID-19 virus, e.g. supercomputing.  This type of research is critical to better understanding the COVID-19 virus and finding treatments for it.

Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) Extension: Extended until July 23, 2020. CFATS is critical to our nation’s security, and we must continue working to bring more long-term certainty for the program and its participants.

Health

PPE and Vaccines:  Provides more than $27 billion to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund for developing and purchasing vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and necessary medical supplies – including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), improving U.S.-based manufacturing capabilities, improving medical surge capacity, addressing the blood supply chain, and enhancing telehealth access and infrastructure.

Liability Protections: Provides permanent eligibility for PREP Act liability protections for manufacturers of personal respiratory protective equipment. The package makes clear that doctors who provide volunteer medical services during the public health emergency related to COVID-19 have liability protections for the period of the public health crisis.

Expanding & Strengthening Telehealth: Expands temporary telehealth services during the public health emergency by striking the need for a pre-existing provider relationship, establishes FQHCs and RHCs as sites of care for telehealth, reauthorizes Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant programs that promote the use of telehealth technologies for health care delivery, education, and health information services, provides a temporary waiver of ESRD face to face requirements and allows certification via telehealth, provides temporary telehealth coverage of the recertification of hospice under Medicare and encourages the Secretary of HHS to consider telehealth to promote home health.

Coverage of Testing & Future Treatments & Vaccines: Expands coverage of COVID-19 diagnostics to include tests approved by state labs and developed by CLIA labs before they get an EUA from FDA, and mandates timely commercial insurance coverage of COVID-19 vaccines or preventive treatments in commercial plans. Coverage is provided for any future vaccine under Medicare Part B exempt from the deductible and at no cost in the Medicaid program. Provides a state option to provide vaccine coverage for the uninsured through the Medicaid program. Prevents price gouging by out-of-network providers to ensure affordable access to diagnostic tests for all Americans.

U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Surge Capacity: Explicitly authorizes, with pay and benefits, a Ready Reserve Corps component of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to have additional officers available on short notice (similar to the other uniformed services’ reserve programs) in order to improve surge capacity and assist the Regular Corps officers in meet emergency public health response missions.

Improved Care Coordination for Patients with Substance Use Disorder: Ensures that health care providers can more effectively care for patients with substance use disorders by better aligning the treatment of substance use disorder medical records subject to 42 CFR Part 2 with HIPAA. 

Extension of Vital Medicare, Medicaid And Public Health Programs: Extends funding for Medicare’s Work Geographic Index Floor, Quality Measure endorsement, input, and selection and Outreach Assistance for low income programs. Reauthorizes through November 30, 2020, the Community Health Center Fund, the National Health Service Corps, the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program and the special diabetes programs. The bill also extends critical Medicaid extenders such as the Money Follows the Person program, protections against spousal impoverishment, the Excellence in Mental Health Demonstration. In addition, the bill provides $1.32 billion in supplemental funding, which includes Hyde protections, to community health centers on the front lines of testing and treating patients for COVID-19. The bill also prevents pending cuts to Disproportionate Share Hospitals (DSH).

Fostering Innovation and Collaboration Between the Government and Industry: Allows the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to more easily partner with private sector on research and development by removing the cap on other transaction agreement (OTA) authority.

Relief for Health Care Providers: The package would provide prompt economic assistance to health care providers on the front lines fighting the COVID-19 virus, helping them to furnish needed care to affected patients. Specifically:

  • Temporarily lifts the Medicare sequester, which reduces payments to providers by 2 percent, from May 1 through December 31, 2020, boosting payments for hospital, physician, nursing home, home health, and other care. The Medicare sequester would be extended by one-year beyond current law to provide immediate relief without worsening Medicare’s long-term financial outlook.
  • Inpatient Medicare payments would be increased to a hospital for treating a patient admitted with COVID-19 by 20 percent. This add-on payment would be available through the duration of the COVID-19 emergency period.
  • Labs would see relief in providing additional time in their mandated reporting period to allow more time to collect data from a larger selection of applicable labs, labs would also be protected from any payment reductions for 2021.
  • Community health centers on the front lines of testing and treating patients for COVID-19 would be eligible to receive $1.32 billion in supplemental funding.
  • The bill would also waive the 3-hour rule for inpatient rehabilitation facilities and provide the HHS Secretary with enforcement discretion with respects to certain payment rules for discharges from Long-Term Care Hospitals for the duration of this emergency.
  • As part of a $330 billion surge in emergency funding to combat COVID-19, the bill allocates least $250 million for hospital preparedness and provides $100 billion specifically for hospitals/providers and to help cover expenses directly attributable to coronavirus.
  • Of the $4.3 billion in additional funding appropriated to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least $1.5 billion will be used to support federal, state, and local health agencies along with tribes, tribal organizations and urban Indian organizations to carry out surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, infection control, mitigation, communications, and other preparedness and response activities.

Over The Counter (OTC) Monograph: OTC monograph reform would modernize the regulatory system for over-the-counter drugs, speeding up the antiquated approval process for OTC drugs and creating incentives for companies to bring innovative OTC products to market. Once treatments are available, this legislation could help patients get treatment without seeing a doctor, if appropriate, and help provide better information if OTC drugs increase risks for patients suffering from COVID-19 (i.e. while not confirmed, there have previously been reported concerns raised about NSAIDS worsening symptoms for COVID-19 patients). It could also help get new, innovative products to market faster, like certain disinfectants.

Protecting the Medical Product Supply Chain: The package would require the National Academies of Science to conduct a study to assess the dependence of, and vulnerabilities to, the United States on critical medications, medical devices, and medical equipment that are sourced from or manufactured in foreign countries and to provide recommendations to improve the resiliency of the supply chain for critical drugs, devices, and equipment, including to increase domestic manufacturing capabilities, supplies and stockpiles, and improve information collection and contingency planning. It also includes requirements for additional reporting to FDA by drug manufacturers that make drugs critical during a public health emergency and requires a manufacturer to report to FDA if there is a discontinuance or interruption in the manufacturing of an active pharmaceutical ingredient that may lead to a disruption of supply. Finally, the package requires manufacturers of medical devices that are critical to public health during a public health emergency to report to the FDA if there has been a permanent discontinuance or interruption of their manufacturing that is likely to lead to a disruption of supply.

Statement on phase one, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, here.

Statement on phase two, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, here.

For more on  COVID-19 click here.


Subcommittees
Health (116th Congress)

Issues
COVID-19
Press Release