President Joe Biden recently released details of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 response plan. Some of that money will be used to boost subsidies to help pay down the costs of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange plans. The president's plan has a strong emphasis on speeding up the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations.
Taking office as nearly 3,000 Americans die daily from COVID-19, Biden stressed that American hospitals are out of beds, businesses have been shuttered, and schools find themselves in limbo, and that the "dismal failure thus far" of the vaccine rollout ends with Biden's COVID-19 relief plan.
In this post, we will outline some of the most crucial healthcare items as outlined in President Biden's COVID-19 relief plan.
A key pillar of Joe Biden's COVID-19 relief plan is an allocation of $20 billion for a national vaccine program. This plan will create community vaccination centers nationwide as well as mobile units for any areas that are hard to reach. The president will also work with Congress to expand the federal matching rate to 100 percent for vaccine administration to ensure that all Medicaid enrollees are able to get vaccinated.
The Biden administration plans to accelerate the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines by providing more funding to local and state officials to create more vaccine sites and to launch a national awareness campaign. Biden has been very vocal about his plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccines in his first 100 days in office. Biden will instruct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to set up 100 community vaccination centers in the next month to bolster that effort.
Biden's COVID-19 relief plan places a renewed emphasis on more COVID-19 testing. Biden has already created a new pandemic testing board to discover new and effective kinds of rapid tests. The federal government also plans to provide guidance to schools and businesses for best widespread testing practices to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Biden's plan also made reopening schools and businesses a key part of his plan. The Department of Health and Human Services will soon begin collecting data on school re-openings and the spread of COVID-19. This will allow for more scientific research into what the risks are with sending children back to school. Biden's plan calls for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to take on a bigger role to set guidance to employers on safe workplace practices and enforcement. Biden said this would help the millions of workers, many of whom are low-wage workers and immigrants, who continue to put their lives on the front lines to keep the country going during the pandemic.
One of Biden's very first actions on his first day in office was to create stricter guidelines for wearing masks, including requiring masks on federal property. Biden's plan also requires masks on public transportation, including aircraft, trains, and buses. Masks also must be worn at airports. All air travelers, even U.S. citizens, must show a recent, negative COVID-19 test before flying to the United States from abroad. Biden said travelers must also self-quarantine upon arrival in the U.S.
Joe Biden also established a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to help ensure vaccinations, treatments, masks, and other resources reach everybody, including communities of color that have been hit harder by COVID-19 and suffered from disproportionately high death rates nationwide. Biden didn't outline a cost for the task force, but the administration did propose a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue package earlier. The proposal, called the American Rescue Plan, includes $350 billion in state and local government aid, $170 billion for K-12 schools and higher education institutions, $50 billion toward coronavirus testing, and $20 billion toward a national vaccine program.
During the COVID-19 global pandemic, healthcare workers have been the backbone of our communities. Included in Biden's COVID-19 relief plan is money to hire 100,000 public health workers. Biden says that these people will be hired to work in their communities to perform critical tasks like vaccine outreach and contact tracing.
Biden's plan also includes $30 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund to ensure hospitals have sufficient supplies and protective personal equipment (PPE). Since the pandemic began, hospitals have found themselves under constant strain to get enough PPE and ventilators. Biden calls for an additional $10 billion to expand domestic manufacturing of these supplies.
In the plan, Biden is also directing agencies to use the Defense Production Act to compel businesses to make supplies that are necessary to fight the pandemic. That can include PPE like masks and supplies needed to administer vaccines and/or COVID-19 tests. Last year, the Trump administration invoked the act to get U.S. manufactures to make ventilators and other critical COVID-19 supplies.
The executive order, known as "A Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain," also directs the development of a new Pandemic Supply Chain Resilience Strategy as part of the effort to encourage domestic manufacturing of these crucial supplies.
Another crucial healthcare item in Biden's COVID-19 relief plan is a bid to increase the value of ACA exchange plan subsidies. Biden is aiming for ACA enrollees not to have more than 8.5 percent of their income for coverage.
It's currently still unclear what parts of Biden's COVID-19 relief plan will get through Congress, but we do expect money for vaccine distribution to receive bipartisan support. The $900 billion COVID-19 relief package passed late last year also included money for vaccinations.