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On the Hill: Congress Sprints to Avoid Government Shutdown

Federal funding levels are set to expire Dec. 3, and Congress must act this week to avoid a government shutdown.

A bipartisan appropriations agreement likely is out of reach. House leadership is expected to introduce a continuing resolution early this week to fund the government under current levels through a date in January 2022.

Meanwhile, both chambers are racing to extend the debt limit and pass the Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376) in December.

Debt Limit Deadline Approaches

Shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced that due to passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the $1 trillion bipartisan physical infrastructure law, the government is expected to reach the debt limit by Dec. 15. Congress must act to raise the debt limit to avoid a default. Although Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) met on this issue before the Thanksgiving recess, it remains unclear if lawmakers will address the debt limit on a bipartisan basis.

Build Back Better Act Moves Forward

While America’s Essential Hospitals appreciates provisions in H.R. 5376 to expand access to health coverage and strengthen the health care workforce, the bill proposes untenable and short-sighted cuts to Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) and uncompensated care (UC) pool payments. In a Modern Healthcare commentary this week, association President and CEO Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, wrote about the harm these cuts would cause to essential hospitals and the patients the bill intends to help.

The Senate is likely to further change the measure to ensure it meets budget reconciliation requirements and garners adequate support before holding a floor vote. The association urges member hospitals to contact their Senate delegations about the damaging DSH and UC pool cuts. The Senate aims to pass the bill before adjourning for its holiday recess; the House likely will hold another vote on the bill if the Senate makes changes to the legislative text.

Energy and Commerce Markup

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a Nov. 17 markup of 12 health care bills, including 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. America’s Essential Hospitals supports this legislation.

The committee passed all 12 bills by voice vote, sending them to the House Committee on Rules — the final step before floor consideration.

Apply Today for the Government Relations Academy

America’s Essential Hospitals is accepting applications for the 2022 Government Relations Academy, a nine-month educational program for government relations professionals. Participants will elevate their federal advocacy skills with a focus on institutions serving low-income patients and others who face barriers to care. Apply today!

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About the Author

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

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