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House Democrats Eye New Funds for Covid Testing, Surveillance

May 8, 2020, 6:33 PM

House Democrats are looking to provide more funds for Covid-19 testing and surveillance to aid efforts to restart the U.S. economy, the head of a prominent House health committee said Friday.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said during a rare teleconference briefing with lawmakers the House does “intend to do more” in terms of funding for testing and contact tracing programs.

At the briefing, one witness outlined his $46.5 billion plan to reopen the economy and expand the contact tracing workforce. Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, warned that the Covid-19 pandemic is still growing in much of the country and the public health infrastructure needs to expand.

“We’re heading to 100,000 American lives lost, and we’re not appreciably slowing,” he said.

Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) has pitched a $100 billion grant program (H.R. 6666) to mobilize coronavirus testing and contact tracing. The most recent coronavirus relief package (Public Law 116-139) includes $25 billion to expand Covid testing.

House Democrats want to originate the next coronavirus response package and plan to unveil their plan as early as next week, House leaders said this week.

Democrats have pushed for greater oversight of nursing homes, subsidizing health insurance premiums for coverage coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) to help people who lost their jobs keep their health insurance coverage, and bolstering Obamacare subsidies.

Members of Pallone’s committee have advocated giving states and local governments money to do contact tracing and surveillance of people with Covid-19 and for isolation programs for people with the virus.

How many of these policies will garner Republican support is unclear.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said at the teleconference that he hasn’t been invited to discussions around the latest coronavirus package. Walden said he wants to take on overhauls of the Strategic National Stockpile, the federal collection of emergency response goods, as well as mental health issues exacerbated by the pandemic.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ruoff in Washington at aruoff@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bgov.com

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