This week, House Democrats introduced a revised, scaled-back version of their COVID-19 relief bill, the Heroes Act. The new legislation is an attempt to compromise with the White House and Senate Republicans, who prefer a smaller relief bill. Despite its reduced cost, the bill continues to include many changes that are critical for people with Medicare and their families. Key provisions of the bill would:
- Facilitate access to Medicare. Critically, the bill seeks to establish a Medicare Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for Premium Part A and Part B, with coverage beginning the first day of the next month. This enrollment pathway is urgently needed to help Medicare-eligible individuals quickly connect with their coverage during this unprecedented crisis.
- Ensure affordability is not a barrier to treatment. The Heroes Act eliminates cost-sharing for coronavirus treatment under Medicaid and Medicare for the duration of the public health emergency. It also clarifies that Medicare will cover an eventual vaccine, even if it is approved for emergency use.
- Protect nursing home residents. The Heroes Act takes important steps to improve nursing home and resident safety. It allocates funding to help facilities manage outbreaks, strengthens public reporting and data collection, and ensures residents can conduct “televisitations” with loved ones while in-person visits are limited.
- Support state Medicaid programs. The legislation increases federal Medicaid payments to states by a total of 14% for one year (October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021), to help them respond to growing Medicaid caseloads. It also directs enhanced funding to Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) and requires state Medicaid programs to cover non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT).
- Provide targeted financial relief. The package includes a second round of stimulus payments of up to $1,200 per individual ($2,400 for couples) and expands eligibility for the $500 dependent credit to include both children and adults. The automatic, direct payments would reach Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits recipients, as well as people who use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN).
The House could vote on the bill this week. However, for any of these important reforms to take effect, they must also be adopted by the Senate. We are encouraged that bipartisan negotiations, which have been stalled in recent weeks, are ongoing.
As these conversations evolve, Medicare Rights will continue to urge federal policymakers to finalize a relief package that prioritizes older adults, people with disabilities, and their families.
We encourage you to also make your voice heard! Weigh in with your lawmakers in the House and Senate, asking them to advance legislation that protects and strengthens Medicare, as well as the health and economic security of those who rely on its coverage.
Read a summary of the Heroes Act.
Read the legislative text.
Read our letter of support for the Heroes Act.
Call and write your lawmakers.