The U.S. House of Representatives passed the final version of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” on Wednesday. The Senate approved the legislation along party lines on Saturday.
In passing this latest round of coronavirus relief, Congress gave Biden one of his biggest early political victories since taking office. The White House announced Biden will sign the bill on Friday.
“For weeks now, an overwhelming percentage of Americans — Democrats, Independents and Republicans — have made it clear they support the American Rescue Plan,” the president said in a statement. “Today, with final passage in the House of Representatives, their voice has been heard.”
The House passed the stimulus package after a 220-211 vote.
Moving forward, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is bound to impact nearly every part of the U.S. economy. It’s also likely to make its mark among home-based care organizations and other providers caring for seriously ill populations.
Key measures in the legislation, for example, include a 10% increase to Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for home- and community-based services (HCBS). That should lead to a $12.67 billion payment bump for HCBS from April 1 of 2021 to March 31 of next year.
The Washington, D.C.-based National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) voiced its appreciation for the bill’s passage in a statement shared with Home Health Care News.
“NAHC appreciates Congress’ continued work towards meeting the demands of the pandemic,” NAHC Director of Communication Tom Threlkeld told HHCN. “In particular, the dedicated funding for Medicaid home- and community-based services will ensure home care recipients can continue to receive care in the safest possible environment, their home.”
The plan additionally includes $8.5 billion in Provider Relief Fund money for rural health care providers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including home health, hospice and long-term services and supports providers.
“[The] increased provider relief funding for rural providers will prove to be a lifeline for patients and providers alike to continue care delivery in rural areas,” Threlkeld said. “NAHC appreciates the late change on this provision extending eligibility to providers that serve rural areas, not just those located in rural areas.”
Several other health care trade groups have thrown their support behind the bill, too, including the Partnership for Medicaid Home-Based Care and the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC).
“We applaud lawmakers for working together to find solutions for Americans who continue to be hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” C-TAC Executive Director Jon Broyles said in a statement. “As vaccines roll out and variants spread, the landscape of this emergency is constantly evolving. C-TAC will continue to advocate for policies that ensure people with serious illness, who are especially vulnerable to complications from COVID-19, receive the support they need.”
Apart from the previously mentioned provisions, the $1.9 trillion plan includes $7.5 billion to track, administer and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, plus $46 billion for diagnosing and tracing coronavirus infections.
It also allocates $140 million to support health care providers’ mental health and emotional well-being.
“This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation — the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going — a fighting chance,” Biden said.
Older Americans Act programs will likewise get about $1.4 billion, with about half of that being used for senior nutrition programs. About a half billion dollar will go to supportive services, which can include HCBS.
The American Rescue Plan provides $1,400 direct payments to individuals making up to $75,000 annually. It additionally extends $300 per week emergency unemployment benefits into early September.
It’s important to note that the plan does not include a federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, which could have been extremely disruptive for home-based care companies currently dealing with sky-high personal protective equipment (PPE) costs and hazard pay, in some instances.