Senate Pandemic Relief Bill Fails to Make Urgently Needed Investments in Health Care to Save Lives
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 27, 2020
Contact: Kathy Melley, 617-791-0708
(BOSTON, MA) – As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations skyrocket across the country, our nation is facing a critical moment in this pandemic. In response, Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans today released the HEALS (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools) Act, a grossly insufficient bill that focuses more on helping corporations than on helping people confronting the biggest public health and economic crises our country has faced in decades. The Senate Republican proposal falls far below the benchmark set by the House-passed HEROES Act, a $3-trillion package aimed at getting individuals, families and communities the support they need to weather the severe health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In sharp contrast, the HEALS Act is focused narrowly on liability protections for employers, hospitals and schools. It lacks much-needed investments for our health care system, adequate workplace and financial-security protections for essential workers, and sufficient support for testing. Instead of enhancing financial support for families struggling to get through this pandemic, the bill cuts funding for unemployment benefits.
The bill’s most glaring omission is the absence of additional funding for the Medicaid program, which will result in cuts to the program at exactly the time when America needs it most. With state budgets approaching unprecedented fiscal cliffs, both Republican and Democratic governors have strongly urged Congress to act – making it clear they will be forced to cut the program without additional federal funding. Congress must invest in Medicaid not just to prevent harmful cuts, but also to support access to coverage for the millions of people who have lost their health insurance along with their jobs. Medicaid was designed nearly 55 years ago to meet moments just like this one, providing millions with access to affordable health coverage. It is especially important for people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people, communities which face unfair and discriminatory barriers to care. Medicaid is a lifeline for low-income people and Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) who are getting sick and dying in greater numbers from the pandemic as a result of systemic racism and our government’s inadequate response to the crisis.
Statement of Emily Stewart, executive director of Community Catalyst, in response to these developments:
“People across the country are fighting for their livelihoods – their health, their economic security and the ability to go to work safely and care for their loved ones. The pandemic has taken over 140,000 lives so far and cases are rising at alarming rates. Yet Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans are failing to meet the moment. The Senate HEALS Act would put millions of people in harm’s way by denying them the health coverage they need and the financial security they deserve in uncertain times.
“The failure to invest in Medicaid is particularly disastrous for people of color, who are more likely to lose coverage and to have a pre-existing condition that requires ongoing care well beyond testing and COVID-19 treatment. With state budget cuts looming, additional federal support for Medicaid is essential to preventing coverage and enrollment cuts under the program. States need economic stimulus, and enhanced Medicaid funding is a proven tool to both save lives and accelerate state economic recovery.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed an unprecedented health and economic crisis that is deeply affecting communities, especially Black and Brown communities and it requires an unprecedented response from Congress. The Senate should be working from the House-passed HEROES Act, which includes additional funding for Medicaid, financial support for people who have lost their jobs, and support for essential workers. Medicaid and unemployment assistance work together to support people during crises like this one, and the Senate bill fails on both counts. The HEROES Act also removes unfair barriers to financial support for immigrants, who disproportionately help their communities as essential workers. Now is not the time for a timid response. This crisis requires bold, courageous action from our elected officials.”
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, courtrooms, statehouses and on Capitol Hill.For more information, visitwww.communitycatalyst.org. Follow us on Twitter@healthpolicyhub.