Congress Returns to Begin New Session:  In January, the 117th Congress was sworn-in. The annual appropriations process has taken a back seat to the COVID stimulus plan being debated by the White House and Congress. Expect the Biden Administration to release their Fiscal Year 2022 Budget proposal to Congress sometime before his first State of the Union address on February 23.

COVID Legislative Package Debated in Congress: Prior to being sworn-in, the incoming Biden Administration released an outline of their emergency relief proposal. Democrat leadership endorsed the $1.9 trillion COVID supplemental package. Included in the proposal is increased emphasis on vaccine deployment. The plan also seeks to fund 100,000 public health workers. The House and Senate could take up the proposal under a budget reconciliation process as early as this week. In an attempt to avoid Democrats passing their $1.9 trillion COVID package through reconciliation, a group of 10 Republican Senators wrote a letter to President Biden. The 10 Senate Republicans informed the president that they are working on a counterproposal focusing on spending $160 billion on vaccines, testing, treatment and PPE. The overall package proposed by Senator Collins is an estimated $618 billion.

Executive Orders:  Below is a list of the healthcare-related Executive Orders that have been signed since Biden took office. 
Executive Order establishing the COVID-19 pandemic testing board and ensuring a sustainable public health workforce for COVID-19 and other biological threats.
Executive Order protecting worker health and safety.
Executive Order on ensuring an equitable pandemic response and recovery.
Executive Order on a sustainable public health supply chain.
Memorandum to extend federal support to governors use of national guard to respond to COVID-19 and to increase reimbursement and other assistance provided to states.
Executive Order ensuring a data driven response to COVID-19 and future high consequence public health threats.
Executive Order improving and expanding access to care and treatments for COVID-19.
Executive Order modernizing regulatory review.
Executive Order organizing and mobilizing the US government to provide a unified response to combat COVID-19 and provide leadership on global health.
Executive Order protecting the federal workforce and requiring mask wearing.

Rural Health Bills Introduced
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) introduced H.R.489, the Protecting Rural Access to Care Act, to clarify the application of the 15-mile secondary road distance requirement with respect to previously designated Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) under the Medicare program. The bill seeks to reverse a change made in 2015 to how CMS defines secondary roads, which can determine whether hospitals qualify as a CAH. This intended change to the definition would ensure many existing rural hospitals do not lose the benefits of being a CAH once they begin recertification.

Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) introduced H.R.523 to authorize HHS to award grants to FQHCs for purposes of conducting mental and behavioral health screenings.