House panels last week heard testimony on key issues for essential hospitals, including legislation to stop looming cuts to Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) funding, pricing transparency, the 340B Drug Pricing Program, and hospital tax-exempt status.
On April 26, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee examined 17 bills and discussion drafts, including the Supporting Safety Net Hospitals Act, which would eliminate $16 billion of Medicaid DSH cuts in fiscal years 2024 and 2025. The hearing, “Lowering Unaffordable Costs: Legislative Solutions to Increase Transparency and Competition in Health Care,” also touched on site-neutral payment policy proposals and the 340B program.
At the hearing, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said the agency intends to issue a remedy “very soon” for several years of damaging cuts to outpatient drug payments to 340B hospitals. In a case brought by America’s Essential Hospitals and other plaintiffs, the U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled CMS illegally imposed the cuts, starting a process to restore lost payments.
Also on April 26, the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education discussed workforce shortages and graduate medical education, as well as use of the COVID-19 Provider Relief Fund (PRF). Republicans largely praised the PRF but noted concerns about misuse of funds. Democrats expressed a desire to continue funding health care workforce programs.
The House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight also met April 26 for its “Hearing on Tax-Exempt Hospitals and the Community Benefit Standard.” The hearing examined the value of nonprofit hospitals’ tax exemption versus the community benefits they provide. Subcommittee members and witnesses expressed interest in clarifying and improving the IRS community benefit standard. Other hearing topics included nonprofit hospitals’ charity care, executive compensation, 340B program use, workforce training, and social determinants of health activities.
Other Hill Activity
Republicans passed the Limit, Save, Grow Act on the House floor last week. The bill, which is not expected to pass the Senate, would raise the debt limit into 2024 and make several billion dollars of cuts to federal spending, including by imposing work requirements for Medicaid.
On the Schedule This Week
The Senate is convening Monday through Thursday this week, while the House is in recess. On May 2, at 10 am ET, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) will hold an executive session to examine multiple bills, including the Pharmacy Benefit Manager [PBM] Reform Act (S. 1339), which would strengthen oversight and transparency for PBMs.
On May 3, at 10 am ET, the Senate Committee on Finance will hold a hearing, “Barriers to Mental Health Care: Improving Provider Directory Accuracy to Reduce the Prevalence of Ghost Networks.” On May 4, at 1 pm ET, the Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing, “Preparing for the Next Public Health Emergency: Reauthorizing the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act.”
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