Health Care

Overnight Health Care: Senate passes $8.3B coronavirus bill, sending it to Trump | Why coronavirus testing could cost some patients extra | HHS was unprepared for Trump family separation policy, watchdog says


Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care.

The Senate passed emergency funding for the coronavirus response, and it will now head to President’s Trump’s desk. Meanwhile, the outbreak has spread to 18 states, and people who need tested could face extra costs. 

Let’s start with the funding vote…


Senate passes $8.3 billion coronavirus bill, sending it to Trump

The Senate on Thursday easily passed more than $8 billion in funding to fight the coronavirus, sending the measure to President Trump, who is expected to sign it. 

Senators voted 96-1 on the bill, which was finalized and cleared the House the day before.

The bill provides $7.76 billion to agencies combating the coronavirus. It also authorizes another $500 million in waivers for Medicare telehealth restrictions, bringing the total figure greenlighted under the bill up to $8.3 billion.

Included within that is $2.2 billion to help federal, state and local public health agencies prepare for and respond to the coronavirus, including funds for lab testing, infection control and tracing individuals who might have had contact with infected people.

The Senate’s passage caps off a weeks-long sprint to get emergency funding through Congress amid growing concerns about a widespread outbreak within the United States. 

There have been 99 U.S. cases spread among 13 states, and 10 people have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Read more here


Coronavirus testing could cost some patients extra

The Trump administration’s efforts to scale up coronavirus testing in the U.S. could leave some patients with unexpected medical bills.

The federal government will rely heavily on commercial labs to run the vast majority of coronavirus tests. Those labs, along with hospitals and academic institutions, could bill patients and their insurance companies for testing.

How much each patient pays will ultimately depend on whether they have insurance, what kind of plan they have and whether it requires cost-sharing, like deductibles and copays.

“We have a patchwork quilt that’s full of holes that’s our health care system and it is not well-designed for dealing with a public health crisis like this one,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University.

Why it matters: Patients in 18 states have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections to 162, including 11 deaths. More cases are expected to be identified as labs ramp up testing in the coming days and weeks.

While lab tests completed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health labs are free to patients, those tests make up a small fraction of the testing that will be done for the coronavirus.

People without insurance might face out-of-pocket expenses for testing if it’s conducted by a commercial lab. People with high-deductible plans, which require patients spend a certain amount toward care before coverage kicks in, could also be hit with testing costs.

Read more here


Meanwhile, more cases are being diagnosed in the U.S.

Officials in Nevada, New Jersey, Tennessee and Texas said they had identified new cases in the last 24 hours, adding to an outbreak that has infected at least 162 people nationwide. 

There are worrying signs that the number of cases is poised to grow. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) declared a state of emergency Wednesday after a patient near Sacramento became the 11th American to die. A cruise ship returning from Hawaii, linked to the death in Sacramento, is being held off the coast of California after nearly two dozen passengers and crew members showed symptoms.

Two new cases were reported in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s (D) office said Thursday. Los Angeles County reported six new cases, and Santa Clara County reported three of its own. 

Mitigation mode: Health officials in Seattle are shifting to mitigation, an acknowledgement that the virus is beyond containment and is already spreading through communities. 

In Seattle, the region hardest hit by the virus so far, officials closed a public school district that serves 20,000 children. The Northshore School District will be closed for up to two weeks, local officials said.

Read more here


More on coronavirus

Trump disputes WHO’s 3.4 percent global death rate for coronavirus

Palestinian president declares state of emergency due to coronavirus

Archbishops order changes to communion amid coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus outbreak expands to 18 states

OPEC considering oil production cuts to offset coronavirus impact

De Blasio announces 2 new cases of coronavirus in New York City

Starbucks to temporarily ban personal cups over coronavirus fears

Virus-fueled slowdown could cost airlines $113B, industry group says

Amazon, Facebook ask Seattle-area staffers to work from home


In non-virus news today: 

HHS was unprepared for Trump family separation policy, watchdog says

Poor communication and internal management decisions left the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ill-prepared to respond to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of family separations, according to an internal watchdog report released Thursday.

The report from HHS’s Office of Inspector General paints a picture of an agency caught off guard and struggling to catch up with its response. The lack of preparation hurt the agency’s ability to identify, care for and ultimately reunite children who had been separated from their parents. 

“HHS was not responsible for separating families, but HHS’s inadequate communication, management, and planning made the situation worse for many separated children,” the report said.  

According to the inspector general, senior HHS officials had no idea the family separation policy was being implemented by the departments of Justice and Homeland Security until they learned about it from media reports. 

The lack of planning for large-scale separations also resulted in the agency being unable to provide “prompt and appropriate care” for separated children.

Flashback: The official policy resulted in about 2,700 children being separated from their parents over a six-week period in the spring of 2018. President Trump signed an executive order officially ending the policy amid a public outcry, and a federal judge ordered the administration to reunite all separated children. But, the ACLU has alleged more than 900 children have been separated since the judge’s order over a year ago. 

Read more here.


What we’re reading

Progressives push Trump administration to ensure a future coronavirus vaccine is affordable (Stat News

Sanofi, fighting back in insulin price debate, says its net prices fell 11 percent (The Wall Street Journal)

Medicare-for-all would be a boon to the American labor market, study finds (The Washington Post

During a pandemic, states’ patchwork of crisis strategies could mean uneven care (Kaiser Health News)


State by state

New Hampshire joins legal fight to keep ‘ObamaXare’ (Associated Press

$50,000-a-day fines and other things to know about Colorado’s new public health insurance option bill (The Colorado Sun)

Coronavirus in N.Y.: 11 new cases are reported in New York City region (The New York Times

Washington and New York are forcing health insurers to cut patients’ costs for coronavirus testing (Business Insider)


Op-eds in The Hill 

Abortion case may not overturn Roe, but could effectively nullify it

A warning for the next pandemic

Tags Bill de Blasio Donald Trump Gavin Newsom

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