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Congress Passes COVID-19 Relief Bill

From Covering Kids & Families of Indiana

A second major COVID-19 relief package, entitled HR 6201 - The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, has passed Congress and been signed into law. This legislation takes a broad approach at healthcare access and testing, while also hoping to address some of the economic needs of Americans. A few key measures include:

No-Cost COVID-19 Testing
  • Private health plans, Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and all other public insurance plans must cover testing for COVID-19 and related hospital or physicians' office visits at no cost. Testing will also not require prior authorization.
  • Members of the primary insurance industry trade association previously made commitments to do so, but federal lawmaking will ensure uniform coverage and implementation. The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) had already announced a no-pay policy for all Indiana Health Coverage Programs.
  • Lastly, the bill includes $1 billion in funds from the National Disaster Medical System to reimburse providers for costs of testing uninsured individuals.

Raising the Federal Medicaid Match
  • The Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) will increase by 6.2%.
  • This seeks to compensate providers and hospitals for the likely rise in uncompensated care, as well as for measures mandating that elective procedures (generally higher margin) be postponed.
  • States receiving these funds are not allowed to change eligibility requirements or raise premiums.

Family & Sick Leave Leave
  • Employers with less than 500 employees will be required to provide paid sick leave and family leave benefits related to COVID-19. The benefits will be paid for by the federal government using refundable tax credits.
  • Sick leave will include two weeks of full paid leave to self-quarantine, for treatment or to complete testing. An additional two weeks at two-thirds pay will be available for parents caring for children at home if schools or child care facilities are closed.
  • The family leave portion of the bill will allow workers to take at least 10 weeks of leave at at least two-thirds original pay after a two-week unpaid leave period.
  • The Department of Labor may exempt companies with less than 50 employees, healthcare workers and first responders from the requirements.

States will also be eligible for grants to support unemployment insurance, and the job search requirements of that program have been paused. Increased funding for food security programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will also occur, as well as a pausing some consumer requirements for those programs. Minor changes to telehealth language were also made, seeking to improve language from the first relief bill passed by Congress.

A third bill package is already under debate in Congress, which aims to add further clarification to some of these measures. That package is also widely expected to include some form of direct financial aid to consumers.


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