Mar 26, 2020 - Health

What health care is getting out of the stimulus package

Hospitals stand to gain a lot of money from the stimulus. Photos: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Congress' big stimulus package will provide more than $100 billion and several favorable payment policies to hospitals, doctors and others in the health care system as they grapple with the coronavirus outbreak.

The big picture: Hospitals, including those that treat a lot of rural and low-income patients, are getting the bailout they asked for — and then some.

The cornerstone provision is a no-strings-attached $100 billion fund for hospitals and other providers so they "continue to receive the support they need for COVID-19 related expenses and lost revenue," according to a summary of the legislation.

  • It's unclear how that money would be divvied up. One lobbyist speculated the funds would go to the "hardest-hit areas first and those areas that are next expected to get hit," but that has not been clarified.

The bill provides many other incentives for the industry.

  • Hospitals that treat Medicare patients for COVID-19 will get a 20% payment increase for all services provided. That means Medicare's payment for these types of hospital stays could go from $10,000 to $12,000, depending on the severity of the illness.
  • Employers and health insurers will be required to pay hospitals and labs whatever their charges are for COVID-19 tests if a contract is not in place. By comparison, Medicare pays $51.33 for a commercial coronavirus test.
  • Medicare's "sequestration," which cuts payments to providers by 2%, will be lifted until the end of this year.
  • Labs won't face any scheduled Medicare cuts in 2021, and won delays in future payment cuts as well.

What's missing: Patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19 could still be saddled with large, surprise bills for out-of-network care.

  • There also are no subsidies for COBRA coverage, which employers wanted for people who lost their jobs. However, people who are laid off are able to sign up for a health plan on the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces or could qualify for Medicaid.

Go deeper

Small hospitals worry about getting bailout money quickly

A rural hospital in Washington state. Photo: Nick Otto/Washington Post via Getty Images

Congress is about to provide $100 billion for hospitals and other health care providers to cope with the fallout from the coronavirus, but small hospitals have no idea how to access those funds — and many need the money immediately.

What they're saying: "A lot of rural hospitals out there need a cash infusion today," Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association, told Axios. "How is it going to happen? What is the process? There are way more questions than answers."

Go deeperArrowMar 27, 2020 - Health

What Biden's big Super Tuesday means for health care

Illustration: Axios Visuals

Health care has become the framework that defines the broader ideological and stylistic divisions within the Democratic primary — a contest between political revolution and Medicare for All vs. bipartisan compromise and a public option.

Yes, but: It's kind of a false choice. Passing either of those health care plans would require a knock-down, drag-out party-line brawl just as intense as the fight over the Affordable Care Act.

Go deeperArrowMar 4, 2020 - Health

Even supporters may not understand Medicare for All

Data: Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Poll; Note: ±3 percentage points margin of error; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Even many supporters of Medicare for All don’t necessarily know how it would work.

The big picture: That doesn’t necessarily mean more information will turn supporters into opponents, but it shows that we’re still at an early stage in this debate, in which opinions about Medicare for All are often reflections of broader political alliances, not the details of a plan.

Go deeperArrowMar 2, 2020 - Health