Congress passed the third of three economic stimulus packages on March 27, providing billions to boost the health care market struggling under the burden of testing and treating the coronavirus.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, H.R. 748, passed in the Senate in the early morning hours of March 25. Two days later, it passed out of the House and was signed by the President. The bill contains economic relief for businesses and industries hurt by the economic collapse brought on by the reaction to the global pandemic, as well as economic relief in the form of $1,200 checks mailed to every American.
The bill also provides economic relief to health care providers, hospitals, clinics, and other health-related organizations.
In specific, the bill sets aside $100 billion for hospitals, public entities, not-for-profits entities, institutional providers, and Medicare/Medicaid suppliers to cover unreimbursed health care related expenses or lost revenue because of the coronavirus. The funding will flow through the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund.
Another provision of the bill sets aside $1.5 billion for the CDC to help state, local and tribal governments in conducting public health activities, including:
• Purchasing personal protective equipment;
• Surveillance for the coronavirus;
• laboratory testing to detect positive cases;
• contact tracing to identify additional cases;
• infection control and mitigation at the local level to prevent the spread of the virus; and
• other public health preparedness and response activities.
More than $1 billion would go to the Defense Production Act to purchase personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other medical supplies.
Another $600 million would be used for critical access to mental health and rural health. The bill sets aside $425 million to increase access to mental health services, suicide prevention programs, and emergency response grants. The bill also sets aside $180 million for critical access hospitals in rural areas, rural tribal health clinics, telehealth programs, and poison control centers.