The election may be the big news today, but Congress has plenty of headlines to make in the coming weeks. Among the work that awaits them: passing a COVID-19 stimulus package and acting on proposed physician fee schedule reductions for 2021.
Long-term care providers have been vocal about Congress moving to pass COVID-19 stimulus funding for nursing homes during the lame-duck session of Congress, which starts next week. They are asking for additional aid to acquire personal protective equipment, conduct regular testing, and hire additional staff or reward current caregivers for their efforts. The aid is particularly crucial, given the convergence of cold and flu season with COVID-19.
“Congress must fulfill its duty,” Mark Parkinson, CEO and president of the American Health Care Association, said in a statement. “Healthcare facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living communities, are already experiencing an uptick in new COVID cases, and they need every possible resource heading into what promises to be a challenging winter.”
Lawmakers will also have to act on a proposed physician fee schedule cuts for 2021, as soon as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services finalizes the pay rule. The rule could slash 9% in Medicare payments for physical and occupational therapy, which would deal a blow to long-term care providers. CMS introduced the proposed rule in August. Last year, therapy providers took an 8% cut.
A McDermott+ analysis of the lame-duck session and early 2021 says that if Joe Biden wins, Democrats will tackle the pandemic starting with the House-passed HEROES Act.
“Immediate needs, such as telehealth flexibilities and the pandemic’s financial consequences for healthcare providers, will take priority in the near term,” the analysis said, Inside Health Policy reported.
If President Trump wins a second term, he may not make the pandemic a priority as he listed ending the pandemic as one of his first-term accomplishments, IHP noted. House members of both parties are eager to continue to make some telehealth waivers permanent following the COVID-19 health emergency.