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(BOSTON, MA) – Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats released the HEROES Act, their fourth package to direct resources to states and urgently needed supports for individuals and families in the wake of COVID-19. The bill would increase the federal government’s share of Medicaid to 14 percentage points to help states respond to a rising demand for affordable coverage, institute additional special enrollment periods for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicare marketplaces, expand access to no-cost testing and treatment, shield people from COVID-related medical debt credit implications, and strengthen support for contact tracing and robust data collection to identify inequities. It would also help many low-wage workers most at risk from exposure to COVID-19 who are providing essential work and care during this crisis but often lack access to employer-sponsored insurance. However, undocumented workers are unfairly left out of this bill despite the role they play as essential frontline workers. The bill also takes important steps to protect people in nursing homes and enhance funding for home-based services. Additionally, the bill suspends the Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Rule (MFAR), which would hamstring state’s ability to finance their Medicaid programs.
Statement of Emily Stewart, executive director of Community Catalyst:
“The House HEROES bill is a strong step in the right direction. It makes a much-needed investment in Medicaid, the program best equipped to protect people in times of need and to create more equitable access to coverage and care. With unemployment skyrocketing to levels never seen since the Great Depression, greater federal support is essential for millions of people who have lost both their jobs and health insurance during this time. This is especially critical for people of color, who are being disproportionately harmed by the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus due to unfair and discriminatory barriers to health and economic security.
“While we welcome the increase in Medicaid funding, the policies as proposed are not enough to meet the urgent and significant needs of families who are struggling to contend with the impact of job and insurance losses. We are also concerned that the protections that have been put in place to ensure Medicaid beneficiaries don’t lose coverage have been weakened for the state of New York. Protections for Medicaid coverage shouldn’t depend on which state you live in, and they certainly shouldn’t be weakened for people living in the hardest hit state.
“There is still a lot more work to do ensure that this bill addresses the deep harm this pandemic is causing for millions of people throughout the country, particularly for people of color and undocumented immigrants. It is vital that Congress address the needs of the immigrant community and provide the resources and care they need to remain healthy.
“We thank the House for their leadership, and we look forward to building on this foundation to ensure the final package more directly and effectively addresses the needs of people across the country. It’s past time for Congress to act again, and we stand ready to fight for those policies that match the unprecedented moment we are facing as a nation.”
About Community Catalyst
Community Catalyst is a national, non-profit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1998 with the belief that affordable quality health care should be accessible to everyone. We work in partnership with national, state and local organizations, policymakers and philanthropic foundations to ensure consumer interests are represented wherever important decisions about health and the health system are made: in communities, statehouses and on Capitol Hill. For more information, visit www.communitycatalyst.org. Follow us on Twitter @HealthPolicyHub.