July 10, 2020 Edition

Legislature Delays Return to Sacramento After Assembly Members and Staff Test Positive for COVID-19

The California State Senate and Assembly have both delayed their scheduled return to Sacramento from summer recess on Monday after six individuals in the Assembly, including two Assembly Members, tested positive for COVID-19. Assembly Member Autumn Burke announced receiving positive results after being notified by the Assembly Human Resources Department that she had been subject to a “mask-to-mask” exposure in late June. Burke indicated she and her daughter are exhibiting no symptoms and will remain in isolation until released by a doctor. Assembly Member Tom Lackey has also tested positive for COVID-19 and has been hospitalized since Sunday.

As such, legislative leaders announced this week that both houses would be delaying their return to Sacramento while the Capitol underwent cleaning and legislative leaders determine how to resume their legislative activities safely. Lawmakers announced on Thursday that both houses would return to Sacramento on July 27. The Legislature was previously set to end their session on August 31 and faced many very busy weeks ahead with nearly 700 bills to consider and act upon. It remains unclear how the Legislature’s calendar will be adjusted in light of this week’s news.

CHEAC will continue to keep its members posted with the latest information as it becomes available. The latest version of the CHEAC Weekly Bill Chart is available here.

Additional $4 Billion in Federal Relief Payments to Healthcare Providers Released

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced today the release of an additional $4 billion of Provider Relief Funds, provided through the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, for safety net hospitals and specialty rural hospitals that may not have met initial criteria for qualification.

Approximately $3 billion will be provided to safety net hospitals using an expanded qualification criterion, expanding this funding an additional 215 facilities nationwide. An additional $1 billion will be provided to 500 facilities that include certain special rural Medicare designation hospitals in urban areas and in small metropolitan areas.

Trump Administration Formally Withdraws U.S. from WHO

The Trump Administration this week sent a letter notifying the United Nations of its planned departure from the World Health Organization (WHO), effective July 6, 2021. The move by the Trump Administration follows an indefinite hold on all funding to the WHO ordered by President Donald Trump in April. President Trump expressed concerns over the WHO’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and that the WHO was too “China-centric.”

To leave WHO membership, the U.S. must provide a one-year notice and pay outstanding dues; as of June 30, the U.S. owes $198 million in unpaid membership dues to the WHO.

Supreme Court Rules on ACA Contraceptive Coverage Requirement

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its ruling in the case of Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, determining on a 7-2 vote that employers with a “religious or moral objection” to providing contraceptive coverage to their employees may indeed opt out of the requirement without penalty. Recall, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), preventive health services for women were required to be included in most health insurance policies. The ACA itself did not explicitly determine the types of services to be provided, leaving it up to the discretion of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The Obama Administration DHHS directed the National Academy of Medicine to recommend to the department which women’s preventive health services had sufficient scientific backing to be included in the suite of services. The National Academy at that point recommended the coverage of FDA-approved methods of contraception.

Over several years, the requirement faced several legal challenges throughout the Obama Administration, particularly from churches, religious entities, and religious non-profit organizations. The Supreme Court in 2016 took up a consolidated set of cases on the matter, but the court ended up deadlocked on a 4-4 vote and instructed the parties involved to attempt to determine a compromise that would allow employees to receive contraception coverage without conceding the religious beliefs held by employers.

In 2018, the Trump Administration issued rules permitting organizations with religious and moral objections to the contraception coverage requirement to opt out. Following its move to expand the ability of employers to opt out of coverage, several entities and states sued the Trump Administration on the grounds that women should have access to contraceptive coverage at no cost and that states will likely end up paying for state-level contraception programs and costs associated with unintended pregnancies.

The ruling on Wednesday’s case is expected to have broader impacts beyond the loss of contraception coverage for hundreds of thousand U.S. women. Given that the Trump Administration’s 2018 rules additionally included objections based on “moral” grounds, the potential exists for many more employers to opt out of contraception coverage for women in the workplace. Wednesday’s ruling deals another blow to the broader ACA ahead of a pending Supreme Court case considering the act’s constitutionality that is expected to be taken up as early as October.