The US government is working on passing many emergency stimulus packages in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Listed below are public health measures being taken by the US government.
What measures have been passed for a public health emergency?
The following stimulus packages mentioned contain many healthcare-related measures focusing on providing COVID-19 diagnostic testing which is free of cost for all Americans. As of July 6, 2020, total federal funds on Coronavirus Emergency Stimulus Package Spending is approximated at $2.495 trillion. On March 6, 2020, the first emergency stimulus package, Coronavirus Preparedness, and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act was passed. On March 18, 2020, The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), was signed, and on March 27, 2020, Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed. And lastly, on April 24, 2020, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement (PPP) Act was passed.
COVID-19 free diagnostic testing
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides COVID-19 diagnostic testing medical services at zero patient cost-sharing. This entails that if an individual has commercial insurance, public insurance, or no insurance at all, that individual will not have to pay anything to the healthcare provider for COVID-19 testing. If an individual is diagnosed with COVID-19, you may be held responsible to pay for additional costs.
How are costs paid for? Insurers will need to pay the healthcare providers for these services, and Congress will pay for testing uninsured individuals. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has rules in place for reimbursement and transparency in pricing. For COVID-19 diagnostic testing, healthcare providers are required to list costs publicly on their websites. Private insurers pay the negotiated price or cash price listed by a healthcare provider.
Insurance coverage for COVID-19 vaccine and preventative services
Public and private insurers are to cover qualified COVID-19 preventative services. When a successful COVID-19 vaccine is developed, insurance plans are required to cover a portion of the vaccine cost. This cost will be paid by insurers, who will work with healthcare providers in determining payment and patient cost-sharing for possible COVID-19 vaccine and other preventative services.
Paid sick leave of two weeks for individuals that are unable to work due to COVID-19
For employees that are unable to work due to COVID-19, their employers must provide two weeks of paid sick leave. These employees include individuals that have been self-quarantined by a healthcare provider, federal or state quarantine, individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis, and someone caring for an individual that may have COVID-19, and those providing child care due to school and daycare facilities being closed.
Paid sick leave due to COVID-19 will be subsidized by a payroll tax credit for affected employers, and this includes self-employed individuals.
Paid family leave expansion for emergency child care due to COVID-19
The existing Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been expanded to cover paid leave for emergency child care due to school and daycare facility closures. The Family and Medical Leave Act expansion will be subsidized by a payroll tax credit for affected employers with 50 or more employees and self-employed individuals.
Recovery rebates for individuals
Direct payments in the form of a tax rebate will be received by individuals that earn less than $99,000 per year. The amount of rebate depends on income level and family size. If an earning reported is less than $75,000 on tax returns, the rebate amount will be $1,200 or $2400 for couples who filed taxes together. If income is greater than $75,000, the rebate amount is reduced by 5% of the amount made greater than $75,000. The recovery rebate amount has been allocated by Congress.
The CARES Act increased unemployment benefits by $600 a week and has extended the duration of unemployment insurance till July 31, 2020. This means that individuals such as freelance workers that are not sick and are unable to work due to COVID-19 will also qualify for unemployment assistance.
Loan programs available for small businesses
Many programs have been established by the CARES Act to provide emergency funding to small businesses that have been impacted due to COVID-19. Small businesses can get loans to pay their employees under the Paycheck Protection Program. A forgivable loan of up to $10,000 is available under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program to applicants that qualify.
Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash