Overnight Health Care: Senate passes coronavirus aid bill, sending it to Trump | First lawmaker tests positive for coronavirus | Trump invokes defense law to boost response | Lawmakers push for surprise medical bill fix in package

Overnight Health Care: Senate passes coronavirus aid bill, sending it to Trump | First lawmaker tests positive for coronavirus | Trump invokes defense law to boost response | Lawmakers push for surprise medical bill fix in package
© Bonnie Cash

Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE today invoked the Defense Production Act to speed production on medical supplies. The Senate passed the House's amended coronavirus aid package, but GOP senators are already working to craft a new, $1 trillion stimulus package. Meanwhile, CDC data shows most coronavirus deaths are in people over age 65, but also that young people are also at serious risk.

We'll start with news from Congress...



Breaking - Florida congressman tests positive for COVID-19

Florida Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R) announced Wednesday he tested positive for COVID-19 after developing symptoms Saturday.

He is the first member of Congress to test positive for the novel coronavirus.

Read more on this developing story here.


Senate passes House's coronavirus aid bill, sending it to Trump


The Senate passed the House's coronavirus aid package 90-8 on Wednesday, sending it to President Trump, who is expected to sign it. 

The bill passed the House in a middle-of-the-night Saturday, but needed dozens of pages of corrections and changes before the White House would back it. 

The measure, which the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates will cost $104 billion, is the second package that Congress has passed amid growing concerns about the widespread coronavirus outbreak in the United States that has already bludgeoned the economy.

But Senate Republicans have already begun looking past the bill; the vote comes as senators are already working on "phase three," which Senate Republicans want to pass next week. 

The third coronavirus bill is expected to include help for impacted small businesses, industries and families, including direct cash payments for Americans.

Read more here.


About phase three...


Senate GOP racing the clock to draft stimulus package

Senate Republicans are scrambling to put together a $1 trillion fiscal stimulus package before a wave of bankruptcies and layoffs sends the economy into a tailspin.

Senior GOP lawmakers say negotiations will likely stretch into next week given the massive size and complexity of the legislation and competing ideas over how to distribute the aid.

Senate Republicans have assembled four task forces to put together the stimulus package: one focused on health issues, another focused on tax policy, a third dedicated to rescuing small business and a fourth tasked with putting together an aid package for major industries, such as the airlines.

Read more here.



Lawmakers pushing to include surprise medical billing in coronavirus package

A bipartisan effort is underway to include legislation in the Senate's $1 trillion coronavirus package that would protect patients from surprise medical bills, The Hill confirmed Wednesday.

A last-minute push from Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSenate GOP chairman criticizes Trump withdrawal from WHO Trump: US 'terminating' relationship with WHO Soured on Fox, Trump may be seeking new propaganda outlet MORE (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) seeks to include language that is favored by insurers, rather than doctors and hospitals, according to sources familiar with the effort.

The provision, similar to what was included in separate bills from the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Health Committee, would let the government set provider rates based on the average price for in-network services offered in a geographical area, a practice known as "benchmarking."

A House Democratic aide confirmed the effort on Wednesday, expressing dismay at the timing as lawmakers scramble to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

"Now is not the time to be doing this because it's not an emergency. What is an emergency is to deal with a pandemic. Trying to sneak this is in now is not the most prudent decision," the aide said. 


Lay of the land: Protecting patients from receiving medical bills for thousands of dollars after receiving care from an out-of-network doctor had been seen as a rare area of possible bipartisan agreement this year. But the effort has been slowed by an array of competing proposals and intense lobbying from hospitals, doctors, and private equity owned physician staffing firms, who worry it would lead to damaging cuts to their payments.

Read more here.


More from Capitol Hill: 

McConnell takes reins of third coronavirus bill

GOP embraces big stimulus after years of decrying it

Senate Republicans eye $75K income threshold for coronavirus checks


McConnell lengthening votes, encouraging social distancing amid coronavirus 

House panel demands explanations from travel insurance firms not covering coronavirus cancellations

Congressional testimony on pause for White House officials handling coronavirus response

Senate GOP expects vote on third coronavirus package next week


At the White House and agencies...


Trump invokes Defense Production Act as coronavirus response

President Trump announced Wednesday that he will invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA)-- just one day after saying it wasn't needed. The move would allow the administration to force American industry to manufacture medical supplies that are in short supply in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. 

Hospitals, health workers and state and local officials have said they are quickly running out of personal protective equipment (PPE), like masks, gowns and gloves, that are crucial to keeping doctors and nurses on the front lines of the pandemic safe.

"There's never been an instance like this where no matter what you have it's not enough," Trump said at a White House briefing with reporters. 

"If we need to use it, we'll be using it at full speed ahead," he said.

Hospitals are also sounding the alarm on the lack of ventilators, or breathing machines, that are expected to be in high demand as the coronavirus spreads in the coming weeks and months. 

Democrats in Congress, hearing about shortages of supplies from hospitals in their states and districts, have urged Trump to invoke the DPA to direct the domestic production of necessary medical equipment. 

"This would ensure we have the materials we need at the ready, rather than wait for disruptions in the global supply chain to subside," 57 House Democrats wrote in a letter to Trump last week. 

Read more here


Trump administration advises delaying all 'nonessential' medical procedures

The Trump administration is looking to ramp up the availability of medical professionals and medical supplies to treat the novel coronavirus.

Officials on Wednesday urged Americans and health care providers to delay elective procedures across the country to ensure medical supplies go where they are most needed.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said her agency will issue guidance that recommends providers limit all "nonessential" elective medical and surgical procedures, including dental procedures.

"We believe that these recommendations will help surgeons, patients and hospitals prioritize what is essential, while leaving the ultimate decision in the hands of state and local health officials and those clinicians who have direct responsibility to their patients," Verma said during a White House coronavirus task force briefing.

Why it matters: Health officials across the country have expressed concern that without action, the coronavirus could overwhelm the nation's health system, similar to what is happening in Italy.

Read more here.


CDC: 80 percent of US coronavirus deaths are people 65 and older

Eighty percent of deaths associated with the coronavirus in the United States were in adults aged 65 and older, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"The risk for serious disease and death in COVID-19 cases among persons in the United States increases with age," the CDC said. "Social distancing is recommended for all ages to slow the spread of the virus, protect the health care system, and help protect vulnerable older adults."

The analysis looked at 44 cases from Feb. 12 through March 16 and found that 34 percent of deaths were reported among adults aged 85 and older. Forty-six percent of deaths were reported among those aged 65 to 84. Adults between the ages of 20 and 64 made up 20 percent of the deaths.

Public health officials and experts have warned for weeks that the elderly are at the highest risk of dying from the coronavirus. The analysis lined up with data released by China, which showed 80 percent of deaths there were in adults aged 60 and older.

Context: Elderly people are likely at higher risk because immune systems weaken with age. Older adults are also more likely to have underlying health conditions that exacerbate illness.

Read more on the data here


The same data showed results counter to some of the early messaging from public health officials in other parts of the world.


CDC analysis shows coronavirus poses serious risk for younger people

At least one in seven, and perhaps as many as one in five people between the ages of 20 and 44 who contract the virus require hospitalization, a level exponentially higher than hospitalization rates for something like influenza.

Between 2 percent and 4 percent of people that young are admitted to intensive care units. The fatality rate is low, only 0.1 percent to 0.2 percent, but is about twice as deadly as a bad flu season.

Younger Americans are contracting the virus at the same rates as those who are older. The initial round of data actually found more people between the ages of 20-44 who landed in the hospital than those over the age of 75.

Read more here.


More from the administration: 

Trump likens himself to a wartime president amid coronavirus pandemic

Trump defends calling COVID-19 a 'Chinese virus'

Kellyanne Conway says it's 'highly offensive' to refer to coronavirus as 'kung flu'

Trump: Wealthy shouldn't get special access to coronavirus tests, but 'that's been the story of life'

White House partners with media companies for coronavirus public awareness campaign

Trump says US, Canada to close border to 'non-essential traffic' amid coronavirus

IRS releases guidance on deferring tax payments due to coronavirus

Trump orders HUD to suspend evictions and foreclosures

Top health official pushes back against theory that ibuprofen worsens coronavirus

EPA faces possible coronavirus outbreaks at multiple offices


And on Wall Street...


Stocks close with steep loses

Stocks closed Wednesday with steep losses as the Dow Jones Industrial Average nearly gave up the entirety of its historic rally that followed President Trump's January 2017 inauguration.

The Dow fell 6.3 percent by the end of Wednesday trading, losing 1,335 points and falling to 19,902. The Dow lingered below 19827.25 points, its closing level on Jan. 20, 2017, frequently throughout Wednesday but rallied to protect what remains of the index's "Trump bump."

Read more here.

Electronic trading: The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) will temporarily shut its floor and turn to fully electronic trading in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic. 

More on that here.


Latest from overseas

Iran sees biggest single-day increase in coronavirus fatalities

State warns foreigners 'attacked' in Ethiopia over coronavirus fears

Merkel calls coronavirus biggest challenge for Germany since end of WWII

Italy reports 475 coronavirus deaths in one day, cases top 35,000


What we're reading

We know enough now to act decisively against Covid-19. Social distancing is a good place to start (STAT)

There aren't enough ventilators to cope with the coronavirus (New York Times)

How to get more ventilators and what to do if we can't (HuffPost)

No part of the U.S. has enough hospital beds for a coronavirus crisis (Axios)

Trump ban on fetal tissue research blocks coronavirus treatment effort (Washington Post)

Why NBA players can get coronavirus tests but regular Americans are struggling to (CNN)

Coronavirus forces reckoning for Trump's healthcare cuts (Los Angeles Times)


State by state

New details on Oklahoma governor's health plan spell out work rules, premiums, projections (Oklahoma Watch)

Is the Bay Area's 'unprecedented' lockdown the first of many? (California Healthline)

What we know about coronavirus testing in Texas (Texas Tribune)

Maryland legislature pushed to improve schools, tracks, health care in session cut short by coronavirus crisis (Baltimore Sun)


The Hill op-eds

COVID-19 poses an unequal risk of isolation and loneliness

Community and connection are essential for coping in the time of corona