After a week of meetings, Republicans — led by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — and Democrats have yet to make significant progress in negotiations on the next COVID-19 relief bill.
Senate Republicans last week released their initial legislative proposal for pandemic relief. The text includes several provisions of interest to essential hospitals, including more money for the Provider Relief Fund, extended repayment deadlines for Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program loans, legal liability protections for health care providers, and extended telehealth flexibility. The association recently called for the extension of telehealth flexibility in a letter to key House and Senate committees.
While representatives are back in their districts, the House has not formally adjourned for the annual August break and will return to Washington to vote if a compromise COVID-19 bill materializes. The Senate is scheduled to recess at the end of this week.
Association Shares COVID-19 Priorities with Congress
To ensure essential hospital issues remain top of mind during negotiations, the association sent a letter urging House and Senate leadership to include certain policy priorities in the next COVID-19 supplemental package, including:
- replenishing the Provider Relief Fund and ensuring adequate funding for hospitals serving a safety-net role;
- blocking implementation of the Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Regulation;
- canceling impending cuts to Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments; and
- providing relief for Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program loans.
An Action Alert last week called on members to contact their congressional delegations now to ensure essential hospital priorities are part of forthcoming COVID-19 legislation.
340B Legislation Introduced in House
Meanwhile, Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Chris Stewart (R-UT) last week introduced legislation to ensure hospitals in the 340B Drug Pricing Program will not lose program eligibility during the COVID-19 public health emergency, regardless of changes to their payer mixes.
Similar legislation was introduced last month in the Senate. However, the House bill would go further by waiving the group purchasing organization prohibition for hospitals during the COVID-19 public health emergency.