Otto von Bismarck is credited with “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best”. The goal is not to posture and make noise. The goal is to govern and get things done. As in any art, there are greats, near greats, and others. The US government is a huge stage. The greats shine. The near greats and others are exposed.
I spent a good part of today slogging through the 393 pages of H.R. 6800, the HEROES Act. The US House of Representatives passed this bill on May 15, 2020. There is a talent to drafting legislation, to knowing your goals and working through the various previously passed laws to get to your desired results. The bill, like all Congressional bills, has any number of items which any of us could disagree. Legislation produced by either the House or Senate are starting points. The final legislation is produced in the conference committees that work out the final details. The House got their work done on May 15th, over two and a half months ago. The Senate couldn’t generate its bill by its own deadline of last Thursday. There is way too much disagreement within the Republican ranks and President Trump and his team seem to have different goals. A Republican compromise was released this week. It was DOA. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is prepared to immediately jettison one the White House’s priorities, a billion dollar plus new FBI building and has guessed that over 50% of the Republican Senators would vote against their own opening gambit. There is no Senate bill. The basis of all future negotiations will be the HEROES ACT. So let’s take a look.
H.R. 6800 impacts almost all Americans. Since this in Health Insurance Issues With Dave, we should take a look at a few of the provisions specifically relevant to health insurance.
- Provide significant funds to the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services for Program Management dealing with coronavirus on the state level
- Create a Special Enrollment Period for individuals over and under age 65
- Allow the government to pay for COBRA for those impacted by COVID 19
- Modify and expand the Paycheck Protection Program
- Increase the flexibility and carry-over provision of the Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)
- Relax the employer filing requirements of certain employer/insurance forms
- Eliminate cost-sharing for COVID 19 treatment
- Provide funding and establish requirements for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing
- Require employers to develop and implement infectious disease exposure control plans
Details? It is probably best to look at this as just part of a starting point. Negotiations will begin in earnest in the next day or so. Millions of Americans are dependent on state based unemployment insurance and the extra money provided by the federal government. That is currently $600 and set to end this week. The Heroes ACT extends the $600. The current Senate offer is $200. Again, this extra money ends in a few days. That may be the main focus of this week’s talks. The rest, such as FSA flexibility and COBRA funding, will fall into place. This blog will report the results as available.
But if you are unemployed, if you are trying to determine how to pay for your COBRA health insurance, this isn’t politics and the art of the possible. This is money and the key to survival.
Picture – Grand Masters – David L Cunix