This Weekend in Congress

Negotiations on a coronavirus relief/economic stimulus bill are still ongoing, meaning Congress will be working this weekend.

While the two sides say they are close to a deal, there are a number of sticking points left to resolve. Among them are the Democrat’s demand that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) be provided funding to address COVID-related emergencies. Republicans worry this money could be used by FEMA for “backdoor” state government bailouts. Another contentious issue is the demand from some Democrats that the bill include money for “live theaters”—in other words, a Broadway bailout.

There is also debate over the size of the stimulus payments, as well as over who should receive the checks.

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey is trying to include language permanently shutting down the Federal Reserve-managed Treasury Department-funded “emergency lending facilities.” Treasury Secretary Mnuchin recently shut down these facilities as they were not being used by businesses.

Another contentious issue is whether to include the last-minute deal on surprise medical billing. This is when patients are hit with large medical bills because a member of their medical team was out-of-network. After working on this for over a year, the relevant congressional committees reached a deal to eliminate surprise medical billings by requiring arbitration between doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies.

This not only creates another new, unconstitutional mandate—one created to solve a problem created by Congress—it requires the arbitrator to consider the “median in-network-rate.” This gives insurance companies an advantage in the arbitration and could lead to arbitrators imposing price controls on physicians and hospitals. Like all price controls, this will reduce supply and thus harm consumers.

For more on surprise billing see here.

We will keep you up to date on the developments in Congress.

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