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On the Hill: All-Hazards Preparedness Legislation Becomes Law

The president has signed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019, reauthorizing $385 million in annual funding for the Hospital Preparedness Program from fiscal years 2019 to 2023. The funding authorization previously expired on Sept. 30, 2018.

America’s Essential Hospitals in a statement thanked the president for signing the bill.

Lower Health Care Costs Act Advances

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions last week voted 20-3 to advance the bipartisan Lower Health Care Costs Act (S. 1895).

The legislation proposes to reduce health care costs nationwide by reducing balance billing, or surprise medical bills. The bill aims to do so by establishing a benchmark payment to providers for out-of-network care equal to the median in-network rate for the service in a geographic area. America’s Essential Hospitals opposes this strategy and called on members in an Action Alert to urge their lawmakers to oppose inclusion of a median in-network payment rate in the bill.

In addition to addressing surprise medical bills, the legislation aims to lower barriers to market for generic and biosimilar prescription drugs; increase transparency of health care costs; and increase investments in public health. It also would impose new transparency requirements on providers and health plans, including requiring that patients are given a good faith estimate of out-of-pocket costs within two business days. Further, the legislation would extend funding for community health centers, the National Health Service Corps, Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education, and special diabetes programsall scheduled to expire Sept. 30.

Senate leaders have indicated the Lower Health Care Costs Act might be combined with drug pricing legislation under development by bipartisan leaders of the Senate Committee on Finance.

House Committee Marks Up Medicare Bills

Meanwhile, the House Committee on Ways and Means last week marked up five Medicare-focused bills:

During markup, the committee did not discuss how the bills would be funded. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce must approve the bills before they go to a floor vote.

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About the Author

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

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