U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, will introduce the Relief for Rural Providers During Emergencies Act. The legislation, which should be considered in the next round of emergency relief, will provide regulatory relief for hard-hit providers during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Americans are going to beat this virus,” said Senator Sasse. “Our health providers have been fighting day-in-and-day-out to keep our families, friends, and neighbors safe. This bill is aimed at making sure that our rural hospitals have what they need -- access to drugs, freedom from red tape, and emergency funding. These doctors and nurses have our backs, we’ve got theirs.”

Background: 

The Sasse legislation consists of five sections:

Section 1: Pauses eligibility determinations for the 340B program for FY2020 and FY2021, ensuring that hospitals currently eligible for the program will continue to receive drugs from pharmaceutical manufacturers at a reduced rate during the pandemic.

Section 2: Eliminates burdensome requirements for health providers and provides necessary flexibility under the Social Security Act during the emergency period;

  •      Waives all prior authorization requirements for Medicaid and Medicare with regards to treatment and testing for COVID-19;
  •      Allows for full reimbursement for hospital services rendered off-site at unlicensed facilities;
  •      Waives sanctions under the Emergency Medical Treatment Act and Active Labor Act 
         for transfers or redirections of patients away from hospital emergency rooms.

Section 3: Relief for Critical Access Hospitals. 

  •      Eliminates the 25-bed limitation for Critical Access Hospitals for 60 days;
  •      Removes the 96-hour physician certification requirement for inpatient critical access hospital services for 60 days.
Section 4: Provides relief for Skilled Nursing Facilities who were neglected in Phase 3;
  •      Temporarily eliminates the regulations governing skilled nursing facility admission criteria that require a three-day hospital stay;
  •      Provides a payment adjustment under the Medicare skilled nursing facility prospective payment system to address increased costs associated with COVID-19 residents.

Section 5: Amends CARES to ensure that high-need communities are included. 

  •      Directs the Secretary to set aside at least 20 percent of the additional $100 billion fund included for providers for rural communities;
  •      Specifies that skilled nursing facilities, assisted living centers, and other types of senior living facilities shall be considered eligible health care providers for the purposes of the fund.