By Ken Perez, vice president of healthcare policy and government affairs, Omnicell, Inc.
On February 27, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. One week later, on March 6, the U.S. Senate passed its own version of the bill, on a 50-49 party-line vote, under budget reconciliation which allowed for passage of the bill by a simple majority.
The House took it up on March 9. Notably, the Senate removed a phased-in federal $15 minimum-wage mandate.
In late February, the American Hospital Association had lobbied for $35 billion in targeted emergency funding for hospitals across the nation. However, neither the House nor the Senate version included that level of assistance, though H.R. 1319 does include a number of provisions that either directly or indirectly benefit hospitals:
- $160 billion for COVID-19 vaccine and testing: Hospitals will get paid for COVID-19 vaccine administration and testing, but that will be just a portion of this amount
- $8.5 billion for rural hospitals
- $330 million for graduate medical education at academic medical centers
- $200 million for Nurse Cops: This scholarship program supports the training of nurses for the U.S. military, eventually contributing to the pool of nurses available for hospitals
- $60 million for education, an awareness campaign, and grants for mental and behavioral health for healthcare professionals
- $20 million for grants to modernize Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplaces and 100% coverage of continuing health insurance through September 2021 for laid-off workers: These coverage-related provisions should enable more people to get health insurance, reducing hospitals’ uncompensated care exposure.