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Congress Authorizes $900 Billion in Additional COVID-19 Stimulus

Congress approved an additional COVID-19 relief package that is expected to be signed by President Trump shortly. This latest stimulus – the fifth COVID relief measure passed by Congress – was included as part of a $1.4 trillion spending bill that will fund the federal government through September 2021. Key highlights from the bill include:

 1. Appropriating $73 billion to support activities related to COVID-19 response, including:

  • Supporting vaccine distribution, administration, monitoring, and tracking.
  • Purchasing additional COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.
  • Payments to hospitals and providers for expenses or lost revenue.
  • Testing and contact tracing in high-risk and underserved populations, including racial and ethnic minority populations and rural communities.

2. Extending the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) with a provision supported by ASHP and state affiliates.

  • Extends eligibility to certain 501(c)6 non-profit organizations, including many state societies of health-system pharmacy.
  • ASHP and 19 state affiliates asked Congressional leadership to include 501(c)6 non-profit pharmacy organizations in the PPP. Thankfully, Congress heeded the calls of organizations like ours and extended PPP eligibility to many 501(c)(6)s.
  • We expect that many state societies of health-system pharmacy will be able to participate in this funding program.

3. Banning “surprise medical billing” beginning Jan. 1, 2022.

  • Patients will only be responsible for in-network cost sharing for emergencies and other circumstances where they do not have the ability to seek in-network care.
  • Out-of-network providers cannot bill a patient unless they obtain consent 72 hours in advance.
  • Insurers and providers will resolve disputes through an independent arbitration process.

4. Providing modest drug pricing reforms.

  • Requires manufacturers who do not have a rebate agreement through the Medicaid Drug Rebate program to report average sales price starting in 2022.
  • Requires plans to offer real-time benefit information and cost estimates to patients via the internet.
  • Allows the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and Medicaid and CHIP Payment Commission access to certain drug payment information, including certain rebate information.

ASHP will continue to provide analysis of the provisions impacting pharmacists and their patients.

Though not included in this legislation, we will continue to urge Congress to include pharmacist reimbursement for patient care services to Medicare patients in future COVID-19 response measures.

We extend our deepest appreciation to all of our members who have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and to our state affiliates who supported us in this critical effort.

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