COVID-19 Federal Responses: Monday, March 23, 2020

COVID-19 Federal Responses: Monday, March 23, 2020


Congress is still in negotiations on the Phase III stimulus bill. The Senate held procedural votes to advance the bill on Sunday and Monday, but both votes failed.

Democrats are still seeking higher funding levels for hospitals and additional restrictions on corporate financial assistance, among other things.

Though it failed to advance, the Phase III bill was revised over the weekend.

  • The total cost of the bill is now expected to eclipse $1.6 trillion. The cost of the original version was $1.3 billion. 
  • Extensions for the Medicare and Medicaid Extenders provisions are set to expire on May 23 – without Congressional Action.
  • Some news reports indicated that the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee were trying to add their “surprise” medical bill legislation to Phase III. That legislation is not included in the most current Phase III bill.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) tested positive for COVID-19. This has prompted some of his Senate colleagues to begin a 14-day self-quarantine for coming into contact with Senator Paul. Several Members of the House of Representatives have already tested positive. Additionally, Senator Amy Klobuchar announced that her husband is currently hospitalized with the virus. 

Both the House and Senate are deciding how to conduct business with many legislators diagnosed with the virus or in self-quarantine for precautionary reasons. Many legislators also want to avoid the constant travelling between their districts and Washington, D.C.

  • There are some discussions about shifting to remote voting but there are serious concerns with that process.
  • Another alternative could be to approve bills under unanimous consent of those who can make it to the Chamber in person. This could mean the $1.6 trillion Phase III stimulus bill could be passed without a recorded vote of who is voting and which way they vote.
  • Congress is also considering holding votes open for days at a time to allow Members to travel to D.C. and avoid congregating as a large group in the Chamber at one time.

White House and Federal Agencies

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Disease (NIAID) said Americans should anticipate practicing social distancing for more than the next two weeks.

On Sunday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it is creating an expedited process for Medicare provider enrollments and suspending certain provider enrollment requirements during the public health emergency (PHE).

  • Providers can call a hotline provided by their Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) for expedited provider enrollments. For example, this process can help providers register their home as a distant site for telehealth services. 
  • CMS will also temporarily suspend all Medicare revalidations during the PHE.
  • CMS also announced it is granting exceptions from reporting requirements and extensions for providers participating in Medicare quality reporting programs – including MIPS – with respect to upcoming measure reporting and data submission.

President Trump clarified that the federal government will not compete against states for in-demand medical supplies. States were concerned that they were competing against the federal government for the same supplies, as all governments prepare for an increase in cases. President Trump said if states inform the Federal government about a conflict, the federal government will drop its order for the supplies.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) is warning the public about certain fraud schemes related to COVID-19.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is suspending certain premarket notification requirements to expedite the development of ventilators.

The FDA approved a COVID-19 test that can provide results within 45 minutes at the point of care.

FDA also issued guidance that it will suspend some requirements for in-person patient lab tests or imaging for certain prescription drugs.

The National Institutes of Health is suspending “non-mission critical” research so that it can dedicate its resources to the COVID-19 PHE.

CMS issued new resources to help states request Medicaid waivers to expand Medicaid access and coverage in response to the PHE. This includes: