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On the Hill: DSH Letter Deadline, Medicare for All Hearing

Following a two-week recess, lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill this week to examine a Medicare for All proposal, prescription drug pricing, maternal mortality. and other health care issues.

Over the next four weeks, Congress is expected to move forward with drug pricing legislation and develop legislation to fund government operations in the next fiscal year.

Medicaid DSH Letter Gains Support in House

With their return to Washington, D.C., lawmakers continue a letter-signing campaign to build support among colleagues for delaying this year’s deep cut to Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments. Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Pete Olson (R-TX) have gained 178 bipartisan signatures on a letter to colleagues calling for a two-year delay of cuts scheduled for fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

Unless Congress acts, a $4 billion cut to Medicaid DSH funding will occur on Oct. 1.

Engel and Olson, members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, will collect signatures through May 3.

America’s Essential Hospitals strongly supports the letter and continues to call on member hospitals to urge their House members to sign it.

House Holds First Medicare-for-All Hearing

The House Committee on Rules on April 30 will hold the first congressional hearing on the Medicare for All Act (H.R. 1384).

The bill, introduced in February by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), proposes to transition the United States into a single-payer health care system by expanding Medicare into a program that insures all Americans. The legislation is supported by 108 cosponsors, all Democrats.

Under the bill, all U.S. residents would be entitled to certain covered medical services without an out-of-pocket cost-sharing obligation. The legislation does not offer specifics on the estimated cost or how the government would pay for the new health care system.

The bill is not expected to advance to the House floor for a vote.

Focus on Maternal Mortality 

Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) sent letters to six government agencies requesting briefings on efforts to address the rate of maternal mortality in the United States. The letters also were signed by Health Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Michael Burgess (R-TX), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Brett Guthrie (R-KY).

The letters highlights the high rate at which women of color experience maternal mortality and expressed the need to improve reporting and data collection to address the issue. The letter calls for a committee briefing by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Indian Health Service, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.

Upcoming Hearings

Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold an April 30 hearing on the payment of prescription drugs in Medicare parts B and D.

The House Appropriations Committee will hold the first subcommittee markup of the year on April 30 for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and related agencies.

Also, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a May 7 hearing on the 21st Century Cures Act and improving electronic health record access for patients and providers. This will be the second hearing in the committee on creating secure access to data for clinicians, patients, and health care consumers; it will feature testimony from two government officials.

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About the Author

Erin Delaney is the legislative affairs associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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