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On the Hill: Congress Enters Lame-Duck Session

As the post-election lame-duck legislative session begins, lawmakers over the next several week will focus on “must-pass” priorities, such as funding the federal government, stopping Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) cuts, and advancing further COVID-19 relief.

Senators returned to Washington, D.C., this week, while members of the House will resume legislative work next week.

Lawmakers face a Dec. 11 deadline to pass legislation to continue funding the federal government and to prevent a $4 billion cut to Medicaid DSH funding. In addition, congressional leaders are eager to quickly advance another round of COVID-19 relief legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–KY) indicated a COVID-19 relief bill is his top legislative priority for the lame-duck session and signaled he will be an active participant in negotiations.

However, congressional Republicans and Democrats remain at odds on policy priorities and key details, such as scope and cost, for a COVID-19 package. The parties also disagree on whether to provide additional funding assistance to state and local governments and state Medicaid programs, as well as the need to extend liability protections to employers and health care providers.

Biden Wins Election

After several days of ballot counting, Democrat Joe Biden surpassed the necessary 270 electoral college votes to secure the election and has been named president-elect. Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), have expressed a commitment to achieving health equity and improving affordable access to high-quality care.

In a news release, America’s Essential Hospitals expressed its readiness to work with the Biden administration to achieve these goals and to improve the lives of all people across the nation.

2020 Postelection Webinar

Join our legislative affairs team for a Nov. 18 webinar at 2 pm ET to analyze the impact of the elections on essential hospitals, health care policy, and the nation’s safety net.

The outcome of this month’s congressional elections will have significant implications for health policy in 2021. Democrats will retain majority control in the House, although with a slimmer margin after losing at least eight seats. Ballots are still being counted for 23 House contests and Democrats face the real possibility of losing additional seats.

Meanwhile, the balance of power in the Senate hinges on the outcomes of two Jan. 5 runoff elections in Georgia and final vote tallies from Alaska and North Carolina. Regardless of the outcome of these elections, the controlling party will hold a slim majority in the Senate.

If Republicans prevail in the Georgia runoffs, the incoming Biden administration would face a divided Congress. This scenario would significantly reduce the likelihood the administration could enact major legislative health care policy reforms next year.

Webinar attendees will explore the outlook for federal safety-net supports vital to essential hospitals, including COVID-19 aid, Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement, and the 340B Drug Pricing Program.

Register for Virtual Postelection Policy Assembly

With election day behind us, lawmakers will shift their focus to issues and policies important to essential hospitals. Join America’s Essential Hospitals virtually Dec. 8–9 for our postelection Policy Assembly.

Attendees will receive a full analysis of the November elections and learn how the outcomes of presidential and congressional races impact essential hospital advocacy priorities moving forward. Attendees also will have the opportunity to virtually engage their congressional delegations.

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About the Author

Nikki Hurt is a manager of legislative affairs at America's Essential Hospitals.

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