After a summer recess and district work period, Congress returned to Washington this week to stalled negotiations on much-needed COVID-19 relief. Completing work on the bill remains a top priority for many lawmakers, but the House and Senate continue to have very different visions for a final package.
House Democrats support the HEROES Act, which they passed in May. That comprehensive, $3 trillion bill contains several policies that would help older adults, people with disabilities, their families, and caregivers during the pandemic and beyond. The bill’s critical Medicare reforms include a coronavirus-specific Part B Special Enrollment Period, improvements to nursing home and resident safety, increased Medicaid funding for states, and changes to make care and treatment more affordable.
Instead of advancing the House package, Senate Republicans released their own, smaller bill, the $1 trillion HEALS Act. In taking a scaled-back approach to pandemic response, it omitted these and other HEROES Act provisions.
Ultimately, lawmakers were unable to reconcile the differences between the two bills before adjourning for summer recess and a district work period.
In a sign of how frustrated the negotiations remain, Senate Republicans recently unveiled an even narrower relief package. The new “skinny” bill—so-named because of its more limited scope and lower $500 billion price tag—is even farther away from the HEROES Act. Like the HEALS Act, the skinny bill fails to anticipate and respond to the unique needs of people with Medicare.
Today, the “skinny” bill fell short of getting the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate, and it is not expected to gain traction in the House—potentially derailing COVID-19 relief talks indefinitely. If a bipartisan consensus can’t be reached in the coming weeks, additional support may not arrive until after the November elections, if at all.
To ensure your Senators understand the urgent need for meaningful legislation, we encourage you to weigh in with them directly, and often. Ask them to reject a “skinny” approach in favor of comprehensive relief. Congress must act without delay to pass a bill that promotes the health, safety, and independence of people with Medicare.