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 programs — all 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:
- the Opioid Workforce Act of 2019 (H.R. 3414) proposes to add 1,000 residency slots over five years in hospitals that have established, or will establish, accredited residency programs in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, and pain management. America’s Essential Hospitals supports increasing the federal government’s investment in graduate medical education, including new residency slots, and has endorsed H.R. 3414;
- the Health Equity and Access for Returning Troops and Servicemembers Act (H.R. 3429) would eliminate the requirement that veterans returning to the workforce pay Medicare premiums to retain TRICARE coverage;
- the Improving Chronic Care Management Act (H.R. 3436) would eliminate coinsurance requirements for chronic care management services;
- the Protecting Access to Information for Effective and Necessary Treatment Act of 2019 (H.R. 3439) would extend funding for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund through fiscal year 2026; and
- the Beneficiary Education Tools, Telehealth, and Extenders Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 3417) would improve the Medicare enrollment system, increase funding for consumer programs, and expand telehealth for mental health services.
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.