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Hazard Pay in New COVID-19 Relief Bill Likely a ‘Pipe Dream’

What your doctor is reading on Medscape.com:

MAY 13, 2020 — Hazard pay for frontline healthcare workers — an idea that has been championed by President Donald J. Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, among others — is included in a just-released COVID-19 relief package assembled by Democrats in the House of Representatives.

The $3 trillion HEROES Act requests a reported $200 billion for a Heroes Fund that would award hazard pay to essential workers, including those in the health field, according to a report in the Washington Post.

But it is far from a done deal. “The Democrats’ spending bill is a Pelosi-led pipedream written in private,” said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) in a Fox News interview posted on Facebook.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell condemned the package. “This is exactly the wrong approach,” he said in a prepared statement that instead laid out a variety of liability protections, which he said should be the first priority.

“We are not going to let healthcare heroes emerge from this crisis facing a tidal wave of medical malpractice lawsuits so that trial lawyers can line their pockets,” said McConnell, adding that his plan would “raise the liability threshold for COVID-related malpractice lawsuits.”

Ingrida Lusis, vice president of government affairs and health policy at the American Nurses Association (ANA), told Medscape Medical News that the ANA had lobbied for hazard pay and was told it would be in the next relief package.

“Though there is an inherent risk in the nursing profession, we think that this is really critical to ensuring that we have a workforce to meet the intense demands of this pandemic,” said Lusis.

“If healthcare workers are not treated and compensated appropriately for what they’re going through right now, then we may not have a next generation that will want to enter the field,” she said.

Various nursing organizations, nurses’ unions, and healthcare unions, such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Service Employees International Union, have advocated for hazard pay.

Physicians’ organizations have not been vocal on the issue, however. The American Medical Association (AMA), for instance, pushed for hazard pay for residents but has not made any further public statements. An AMA spokesman told Medscape Medical News the group was monitoring the situation but declined further comment.

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