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On the Hill: Congress Averts Medicare Sequester, PAYGO Cuts

President Joe Biden has signed the Protecting Medicare and American Farmers from Sequester Cuts Act (S. 610), which the Senate last week passed on a 59–35 vote. The legislation averts looming Medicare payment cuts and provides expedited means for the Senate to pass debt limit relief by a simple majority.

Specifically, the bill waives the 4 percent Medicare PAYGO cut until 2023 and extends the 2 percent Medicare sequestration moratorium for the first three months of 2022. It phases in the cut at 1 percent for April through June and eliminates the moratorium entirely beginning in July 2022. The bill also provides a 3 percent payment increase under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) in 2022 to mitigate cuts proposed in the CMS 2022 Medicare PFS final rule. It also provides a fast-track pathway for the Senate to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

Senate to Increase Debt Limit

Senate Democrats this week plan to release legislative text for a debt limit increase. The increase is expected to be approximately $2 trillion — sufficient to last through the 2022 midterm elections. Once the Senate advances the debt limit increase, the House will have final consideration of the measure.

Senate Parliamentarian, CBO Consider Build Back Better Act

The Senate parliamentarian this week is expected to release a decision on whether two Senate versions of the Build Back Better Act are consistent with the Byrd Rule. The Senate committees on Finance and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions released their versions of the bill last weekend, sending the legislative text to both the parliamentarian and the Congressional Budget Office for scoring.

Of note for essential hospitals, House-passed provisions related to disproportionate share hospital cuts were left out of the Senate versions. However, the Senate text retained concerning language limiting federal funds to uncompensated care pools in states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

House Bill Aims to Protect Health Care Providers

The House last week voted 392–36 to advance the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act (H.R. 1667). The legislation would support mental and behavioral health resources for health care professionals through grants, training, and other initiatives. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Congressional Hearing on FDA Commissioner

A Dec. 14 hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will consider Robert McKinnon Califf, of North Carolina, as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Califf previously served as FDA commissioner from February 2016 to January 2017. He completed his residency in internal medicine at association member University of California San Francisco.


About the Author

Christina Fagnano is the legislative affairs associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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