House panel hears testimony on site-neutral payments, potential for Medicaid cuts to providers

Healthcare providers would receive much sought after liability protections from coronavirus-related lawsuits under a new COVID-19 relief proposal from Senate Republicans. But an additional $25 billion for a Provider Relief Fund, which was included in an initial proposal, is out.

GOP lawmakers on Wednesday announced plans to unveil a scaled-back version of their original $1 trillion coronavirus bill, the HEALS Act, Politico reported. The proposal has been dubbed the “skinny bill” by White House staffers. 

“This isn’t just skinny,” criticized Katie Smith Sloan, LeadingAge’s president and CEO, in a statement. “It’s anemic.

“And when the Senate leadership justifies the bill by saying they included only the ‘most urgent’ needs — as vulnerable adults die in record numbers — it seems that what they really mean is that older lives are expendable,” she added. 

Senate and House negotiators have been at an impasse over a possible new relief funding bill. The Democrat-controlled House first passed a $3 trillion package, which the GOP-led Senate said is too extravagant.

LeadingAge said the new Senate measure provides “none of the needed $100 billion of dedicated funds” to help providers obtain enough personal protective equipment and manage other increased costs. LeadingAge levied similar criticism at the chamber’s initial proposal in July.

The new proposal does include funds for testing, vaccine production and distribution, and a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans, according to a report by Modern Healthcare.

“When eight out of ten COVID deaths are among people 65 and older, and infections in nursing homes are breaking new records, it’s shameful to largely ignore the continued deaths and escalating danger to older adults,” Sloan said. “This bill provides no real relief to older Americans.”