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On the Hill: House Passes Preparedness Funding Bill

The House last week passed legislation to provide new funding for pandemic and disaster preparedness and emergency response programs.

The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovations Act (PAHPA) of 2019 (S. 1379) would provide $385 million in annual funding for the Hospital Preparedness Program through fiscal year (FY) 2023, among other provisions.

The bill now heads to the president.

Essential Hospital Leader Testifies on Capitol Hill

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a June 4 hearing to examine a series of bills to extend funding for key health care programs set to expire on Sept. 30, including legislation to address the impending Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) cuts.

The hearing included testimony from an essential hospital leader: Michael Waldrum, MD, MSC, MBA, CEO of Vidant Health, in Greenville, N.C. Waldrum testified to the committee on the importance of DSH funding for Vidant Health and other essential hospitals.

The subcommittee also discussed the Patient Access Protection Act (H.R. 3022), legislation from Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) to permanently repeal cuts to Medicaid DSH funding mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Before the hearing, Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) introduced H.R. 3054, a bill that would delay cuts to Medicaid DSH for two years.

Together, Reps. Engel and Olson spearheaded a letter to House leadership calling for a two-year delay of DSH cuts. The letter received the bipartisan support of 300 House members.

Efforts to Reduce Surprise Billing

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a June 12 hearing on the No Surprises Act, a bipartisan legislative proposal that seeks to protect patients from surprise billing practices. America’s Essential Hospitals sent a letter to leaders of the committee with feedback on the bill.

The hearing comes after media reports last week indicated the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has determined the fiscal impact on the federal budget of a key provision of legislative proposals to address surprise billing. Specifically, CBO is expected to announce that bipartisan proposals in the Lower Health Care Costs Act to determine appropriate payment for delivering out-of-network care would save money in the federal budget. Specifically, reports indicate that over 10 years:

  • establishing a benchmark payment rate equal to the median in-network amount for a service within a geographic area would save $25 billion; 
  • establishing an independent dispute resolution process, including arbitration, for medical bills greater than $750 would save the federal government $20 billion; and
  • requiring all clinical practitioners in a hospital to be part of the same insurance network as the facility would save $9 billion.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, announced the panel will consider the Lower Health Care Costs Act before Congress breaks for the July Fourth holiday.

House to Vote on Spending Package

This week, the House will begin considering a government spending package to fund federal agencies for FY 2020.

The House will take up legislation combining five separate spending bills; the $987 million package includes funding for the departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services.

The House likely will complete deliberations on the spending package next week.

Single-Payer Proposals

Meanwhile, the House Committee on Ways and Means will hold a July 12 hearing on universal coverage legislative proposals, including the Medicare for All bills from Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). This hearing marks the first time a committee of health care jurisdiction will hold a hearing on universal coverage proposals.

Key Senators to Release Drug Pricing Legislation

The Senate Committee on Finance Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced that the committee will release a bipartisan legislative package to address high prescription drug costs as early as mid-June, with hopes of holding a vote before the July Fourth recess.

Specifics on the proposal have not been released, but Grassley said the package likely will include changes to Medicaid and Medicare Parts B and D.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) plans to release his own drug pricing package this week. The legislation would address value-based payment arrangements, anticompetitive contracts between drugmakers, and Medicaid rebate reform. It also is expected to include two bills that would benefit pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers in the pricing negotiation process.

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About the Author

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

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