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Proposed legislation that would protect healthcare providers from COVID-19-related lawsuits “is critically needed and should be enacted as soon as possible,” 495 organizations, including several associations representing senior living and other long-term care providers, wrote in a letter to all members of Congress.

The Safeguarding America’s Frontline Employees To Offer Work Opportunities Required to Kickstart the Economy (SAFE TO WORK) Act, introduced July 27 by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) as part of a $1 trillion package of bills making up the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability, and Schools (HEALS) Act, would protect healthcare providers — including entities and individuals who work for them — for almost five years from lawsuits related to the provision of COVID-19-related care and services, except in cases of “gross negligence or willful misconduct.” The act, which would cover coronavirus-related medical liability claims against healthcare providers occurring from Dec. 1, 2019, to Oct. 1, 2024, also has liability protections for other businesses and schools.

“These crucial protections would safeguard healthcare workers, providers, and facilities, as well as businesses, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions against unfair lawsuits so they can continue to contribute to a safe and effective economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter-writers stated.

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce led the July 30 effort, which was signed by the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, Argentum, LeadingAge, LeadingAge Texas, and the American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing, of which the American Association of Directors of Nursing Services and the American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination are subsidiaries.

“[A]bsent the proposed liability protections, many frontline healthcare workers and facilities, as well as manufacturers of critical personal protective equipment, would be punished for their efforts in the form of costly lawsuits,” the groups said. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that the next coronavirus relief package must contain legal immunity protections.

According to an American Independent review of Federal Election Commission data, AHCA/NCAL has donated $17,500 to McConnell and $3,000 to Cornyn, and Argentum has given $12,500 to Cornyn, over the 2016, 2018 and 2020 campaign cycles through the senators’ campaign committees and their leadership political action committees.

The future of the SAFE TO WORK and HEALS acts remained uncertain Sunday as talks between Democrats and Republicans have stalled. The $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, proposed by House Democrats, passed in the House in May.

On Saturday, President Trump signed four executive orders that he said were designed to address some pandemic-related issues in lieu of action by Congress, but some questioned whether the orders were constitutional, whether they would accomplish his stated goals, and whether they ultimately would hurt the Social Security and Medicare programs.

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