Congress Passes Legislation Supporting America's Health Care System During COVID-19 Crisis

March 27, 2020

Update: President Trump signed the bill into law on March 27, 2020.

Congress recently passed a third legislative package focused on stabilizing the United States (U.S.) economy and shoring up the health care system to ensure it is prepared to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

The bill, which President Trump is expected to sign, includes key provisions that will impact the cancer care community, as well as patients with and survivors of cancer. Highlights include:  

Supply Shortages:

  • Requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and National Academies to report on the security of the U.S. medical product supply chain, including the nation’s dependence of critical drugs and devices that are sourced or manufactured outside of the U.S.
  • Establishes new manufacturer reporting requirements around drug shortages, discontinuations, or interruptions in supply chain.
  • Requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prioritize and expedite the review of drug applications and inspections to prevent or mitigate a drug shortage.

Reimbursement for Oncology Practices:

  • Provides $100 billion to reimburse eligible health care providers for health care-related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus.
  • Temporarily suspends Medicare sequestration between May 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.
  • Expands telehealth flexibility in Medicare by eliminating a requirement that a physician (or other health care professional) must have treated a patient within the past three years in order to be reimbursed for a telehealth visit.
  • Delays reporting requirements for clinical diagnostic laboratory and associated payment cuts for one year.
  • Delays Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) reductions until December 1, 2020.

Additional Funding:

  • Provides additional funding to key federal agencies and programs to carry out the response to COVID-19. Funding includes:
    • $117 Billion for Hospitals and Veterans Health Care
    • $45 Billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund
    • $16 Billion for the Strategic National Stockpile
    • $4.3 Billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    • $11 Billion for Vaccines, Therapeutics, Diagnostics, & Other Medical Needs

In addition to provisions directly impacting the health care system, the legislation also includes an expansion in unemployment insurance, assistance to small businesses, direct rebates to individuals, and federal student loan flexibility.

On March 23, ASCO called on Congress and the Administration to work together to increase the availability of COVID-19 testing for vulnerable patients (including patients with cancer) and health care professionals, increase the availability of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), support oncology practices to ensure continued access to care, expand usage of telehealth, and address drug shortages. ASCO also signed onto a letter along with more than 100 other health organizations requesting specific provisions to support and sustain physicians and their practices during this unprecedented national emergency. While ASCO is pleased to see that some of these recommendations were incorporated in the final legislative package, more work is needed to improve patient care and support practices during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

ASCO is committed to providing the most current information and resources to its members and the larger oncology community to help ensure that individuals with cancer continue to receive high-quality care. View the COVID-19 resources ASCO has compiled to support clinicians, the cancer care delivery team, and patients with cancer, and stay connected to ASCO in Action for policy updates related to COVID-19.