Today, United States of Care (USofCare) referred to today’s signing of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 as a “major step toward defeating the virus and ending the pandemic.” The final legislation includes many of USofCare’s most important policy priorities, which are also widely popular with people across the political spectrum.
“Over the past year, United States of Care has made substantial recommendations to policymakers based on people’s needs to fight the pandemic and build a better, more equitable health care system in its wake,” said Emily Barson, Executive Director at United States of Care. “Whether it’s the $47 billion to help local and state public health workers engage in contact tracing and testing activities or our advocacy to ensure people are able to provide for themselves and their loved ones during the pandemic, we’re proud that so many of our suggestions made it into the final American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The new law – which is widely popular with the public across the political spectrum – provides the support that’s needed to put an end to this pandemic and allow our health care system to emerge from this crisis stronger than before.”
The final legislation signed into law aligns with previous United States of Care recommendations, including:
- $47.8 billion to Health and Human Services to detect, diagnose, trace, and monitor COVID-19 infections, and for other activities necessary to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. On April 29th, 2020, USofCare recommended that Congress allocate $46 billion to help local and state public health workers engage in contact tracing and testing activities.
- $219.8 billion for state and local governments to maintain critical health care programs and services that help people take care of their families. In January 2021, USofCare requested $350 billion for this purpose.
- $7.6 billion to bolster the public health workforce with funds for state, local, and territorial health departments. USofCare, along with our Entrepreneurs Council co-chair John Driscoll, advocated for the establishment of a “Health Care Ready Reserve” or “health force” in congressional recommendations sent to Capitol Hill in April 2020, July 2020 and January 2021.
- $7.5 billion for the CDC to prepare, promote, distribute, administer, monitor, and track COVID-19 vaccines. This includes distribution and administration, support for state, local, tribal, and territorial public health departments, community vaccination centers, IT enhancements, facility enhancements, and public communication. In January 2021, USofCare’s recommendations called for “funding to scale and implement the nation’s vaccine distribution capabilities” to the tune of $20 billion. USofCare’s vaccine distribution recommendations also explicitly focused on “underserved areas” listed in the bill.
- $1.5 billion for funding for grants for community mental health services. On July 15th, 2020, USofCare called for robust investment in behavioral health to ensure mental health services remain open, operational, and able to provide care during the pandemic.
- People who are laid off or experience reduced hours are eligible for subsidies that cover 100% of their COBRA costs through the end of September 2021. In January 2021, USofCare recommended that the full cost of COBRA assistance should be covered on a temporary basis for those who have lost job-connected health insurance.
- $1 billion to educate the public on the vaccine in order to boost confidence in it. In January 2021, USofCare recommended that Congress appropriate $200 million.
- Encourage Medicaid expansion in states that have yet to implement it by having the federal government pay an extra 5% of all of a state’s Medicaid costs for two years. USofCare urged policymakers to create incentives for states to expand Medicaid via a 100% Federal Medical Assistance Percentage match for those enrolled in expansion populations on several occasions including April 2020, July 2020, and December 3, 2020.
- Ensure that no one buying coverage from the Marketplace would pay more than 8.5% of their income for health insurance. In January 2021, USofCare made this exact recommendation.
- $20 million for youth suicide prevention. USofCare called for confronting our nation’s suicide epidemic in its December 3rd transition memo.
- $620 million for AmeriCorps to serve communities disproportionately impacted by COVID–19. In calling for critical investment in our public health workforce on June 25th, 2020, USofCare cited the long-term need for such workers to connect vulnerable communities to care, particularly if they are recruited from the communities in which they will work.
“USofCare thanks our Board, Founder’s, and Entrepreneurs Council members for providing their expertise and guidance in shaping our policy recommendations,” added Barson. “We wholeheartedly agree with the overwhelming majority of the American people from both political parties in favor of the American Rescue Plan. Today our nation took a major step toward defeating the virus and ending the pandemic.”