GOP relief bill gives providers liability protection, another $25B

A Senate Republican COVID-19 relief bill would shield hospitals from lawsuits over COVID-19 care, but not as much money as providers asked for. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released an outline of Republicans’ version of a new relief package during a speech on the Senate floor Monday. The legislation includes $25 billion for providers, which will add to $175 billion that Congress has already approved and is still being distributed to financially distressed hospitals and physicians.

McConnell said the legislation will include liability protections for nurses, doctors and hospitals. While the liability protections are sure to please the provider industry, McConnell did not specifically mention more provider relief funding. 

“We are not going to let trial lawyers throw a party on the backs of front-line workers and institutions who fought this new enemy on the front lines,” he said.

A $3 trillion House bill the chamber passed more than a month ago included $100 billion for providers, which would be on top of $175 billion Congress has already approved and is still being distributed to hospitals and physicians.

Provider groups have been pressing Congress for another $100 billion. The American Hospital Association pointed to a study that hospitals could lose $323 billion this year due to COVID-19.

McConnell noted that the legislation will also focus on incentivizing domestic manufacturing of supplies needed by healthcare workers to combat COVID-19, such as personal protective equipment. Hangups from overseas manufacturers contributed to shortages in hospitals that are continuing to affect facilities. 

Some hospital systems even bought a stake in a domestic manufacturer to ensure they have enough supplies.

McConnell said the legislation will act as a starting point for talks with Democrats.

“To make a law, bipartisan talks need to come next,” he said.

But it remains unclear whether a quick agreement on legislation will come soon. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer quickly blasted the package after McConnell’s speech, saying the response appears to be totally inadequate.