The House this week will vote on legislation to extend through the end of 2021 the moratorium on a 2 percent Medicare sequester cut to provider payments, which is set to expire March 31. Extending the moratorium and averting these cuts is a top advocacy issue for essential hospitals.
The bill (H.R. 1868) also includes technical corrections to previous COVID-19 relief legislation and would prevent a statutory automatic Medicare cut triggered by the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. Law requires mandatory Medicare cuts of up to 4 percent when Congress passes legislation that increases the deficit.
The future of the measure is unclear; the bill would need support from 60 senators, including at least 10 Republicans, to pass the chamber.
House Democrats Unveil Infrastructure Legislation
Meanwhile, House Democrats last week unveiled a new infrastructure package, the Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s America (LIFT America) Act.
Notably, the legislation would reauthorize the Hill-Burton Free or Reduced-Cost Care program and provide $10 billion over five years for hospital infrastructure. It prioritizes funding for construction and modernization activities to bolster public health preparedness and cyberattack prevention.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce announced a March 22 hearing to examine the LIFT America Act.
Biden Health Nominees Move through Senate
The Senate as early as this week could confirm President Joe Biden’s nominee for health and human services (HHS) secretary: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. In a preliminary vote last week, moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Susan Collins (R-ME) signaled they would vote in favor of confirming Becerra, giving him an expected 51 votes.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on Wednesday will vote on whether to approve the nominations of Vivek Murthy and Rachel Levine for U.S. surgeon general and assistant secretary for health, respectively. Both nominees are expected to clear the committee and come before the full Senate in the coming weeks.
Hearings of Note for Essential Hospitals
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a March 17 hearing titled “Leading the Way Forward: Biden Administration Actions to Increase COVID-19 Vaccinations.” The same day, the committee’s Subcommittee on Health will a hold hearing on protecting health care access in U.S. territories.
The Senate HELP Committee will hold a March 18 hearing to examine the COVID-19 response, focusing on an update from federal officials. The same day, the Senate Special Committee on Aging will hold a hearing on meeting health care needs for at-risk Americans one year into the pandemic.