The necessary response to the Coronavirus pandemic is an ongoing debate in the United States. The federal government has already provided trillions of dollars in aid to individuals and businesses, but many believe that more assistance is needed. The House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, which entailed over $3 trillion Coronavirus stimulus to individuals, businesses, and state and local governments. However, the bill was highly unpopular in the Republican-controlled senate. As a result, Republicans in Congress proposed the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools Act, or the HEALS act.

So, what is the HEALS act? How much does it cost? What kind of aid does it provide? Is it likely to pass through Congress and become law? Finally, could the HEALS act affect your Medicare coverage? We will answer all of these questions and more, but first, let’s look at the basic function of the bill.

What is the HEALS Act?

The HEALS Act is an economic stimulus bill introduced by Congressional Republicans in late July 2020. The bill was a direct response to demand for aid in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, most Republicans in Congress felt that the HEROES Act, which passed through the House of Representatives in May 2020, was far too expensive. The HEROES Act offers significant financial aid and programs that would total $3 trillion.

In an attempt to strike a compromise and propose a less expensive bill, Republicans developed the HEALS Act. In essence, the HEALS Act provides approximately $1 trillion in aid for the following:

  • A second round of stimulus checks of up to $1,200 for qualifying Americans
  • A liability shield for employers to safeguard against COVID-19 related lawsuits filed by employees
  • An extension of the Paycheck Protection Program
  • Over $300 billion in discretionary spending for government agencies related to labor, health and human services, and education, as well as funding for NASA, the navy, and the construction of a new FBI headquarters
  • A committee to evaluate the financial vitality of various federal trust funds
  • Loan payment deferment for qualifying students and funding for private school scholarships
  • Funding to increase the research, development, and production of medical equipment in the United States, decreasing the country’s reliance on foreign aid
  • Funding to allow businesses to deduct 100% of the cost of business meals in 2020

While Republicans saw the bill as a compromise, Democrats in Congress believed that it did not provide nearly enough aid to states, local governments, or medical facilities. As a result, the HEALS Act has not passed into law. In the weeks since Republicans introduced the bill, Congress has been locked in negotiations over how to proceed with a new or revised Coronavirus stimulus package. Therefore, the HEALS Act (in its current form) is unlikely to make it to the president’s desk.

How Could the HEALS Act Affect Medicare?

As you can see from the bullet points above, the HEALS act does not provide (or take away) any direct funding to Medicare. However, it does provide billions for agencies related to “health and human services,” which could ultimately divert funds to Medicare. So, in its current form, the HEALS Act is unlikely to affect Medicare in any substantial way.

However, President Trump has indicated that he would not sign any stimulus package into law unless it included a payroll tax cut. Since the payroll tax is the primary way that the government funds both Medicare and Social Security, this could have a huge impact on Medicare funding. If Congressional Republicans choose to revise the HEALS Act and include the payroll tax cut, some older adults could see fewer benefits and higher premiums going forward.

Bottom Line

In short, the HEALS Act is the Republican proposal for federal Coronavirus aid. However, it is widely disliked among Democrats and will likely require significant changes to have any chance of passing into law. That said, as it currently stands, the HEALS Act will not have a major impact on Medicare.

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