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On the Hill: Congress Focuses on Medicare Cut, Infrastructure Funding

Following a two-week recess, the House will vote as early as tonight on an amended version of H.R. 1868, which would extend through the end of this calendar year the moratorium on the 2 percent Medicare sequester cut. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has held provider claims since the beginning of April in anticipation of this bill becoming law.

This Senate-passed version does not waive a 4 percent Medicare cut triggered by the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. The reduction is a condition of the Statutory Pay As You Go (PAYGO) Act of 2010 and is implemented when Congress passes legislation that increases mandatory spending without an offset.

Congress Pivots to Infrastructure

Meanwhile, lawmakers continue conversations on a legislative package for infrastructure funding. The package is likely to be influenced by President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicated she wants the chamber to pass an infrastructure package by July 4; House committees are ramping up to meet this goal.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) last week announced a parliamentarian ruling that could allow Democrats to amend the fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget resolution to pass a second bill under reconciliation rules. This ruling might provide Democrats an unexpected pathway to pass legislation including significant federal investments in infrastructure and social and health programs without Republican support. However, the text of the parliamentarian’s ruling has not been publicly released, and Democratic congressional leaders have not announced whether they will use the budget reconciliation process to advance an infrastructure package.

Workplace Violence Prevention Bill

The House is expected to vote as early as this week on the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1195). This legislation would require the Department of Labor to issue standards, through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for hospitals and other health care and social services providers to prevent workplace violence. While the House is likely to pass this bill, it faces unknown prospects in the Senate.

Upcoming Committee Hearings

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold an April 14 hearing on understanding substance use and misuse amid the pandemic.

The Senate Finance Committee will hold an April 15 hearing to consider President Joe Biden’s nominations of Andrea Joan Palm as deputy secretary of health and human services (HHS) and Chiquita Brooks-LaSure as administrator of CMS.

Also on Thursday, the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing on the FY 2022 budget request for HHS. Newly confirmed HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra will testify.

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About the Author

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

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