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On the Hill: Responding to Coronavirus Outbreak

Lawmakers this week will hold several hearings to help inform their response to the COVID-19 outbreak and the possibility of community spread in the United States.

Congressional leaders are negotiating legislation that could provide up to $8 billion in emergency supplemental funding to respond to the outbreak. America’s Essential Hospitals this week called on lawmakers to ensure hospitals and other front-line providers have the resources they need to prepare for the spread of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a March 3 hearing on the response to the COVID-19 virus, featuring public health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Food and Drug Administration.

Additionally, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will hold a March 5 hearing on the federal interagency response to COVID-19. The hearing will feature testimony from Robert Kadlec, MD, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and officials with the Department of Homeland Security.

MFAR Advocacy 

Last week, America’s Essential Hospitals hosted a standing room–only briefing on the proposed Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Regulation (MFAR) for congressional staff and the media. The briefing, on Capitol Hill, featured remarks from Justin Senior, CEO of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, and panelists representing the American Health Care Association and the Children’s Hospital Association.

The assembled audience learned about the MFAR’s potential impact on local taxpayers, state university medical schools, children’s health and children’s hospitals, and pediatric patients in long-term care residential facilities.

America’s Essential Hospitals invites member hospital government relations professionals and other interested staff to join its MFAR advocacy work group. The association will convene the work group on a regular basis to provide updates on current and future MFAR-related advocacy activities.

The next MFAR work group call is scheduled for March 4, at 1 pm ET.

To join the work group, contact Vice President of Legislative Affairs Carlos Jackson at cjackson@essentialhospitals.org

Deadline Extended for Senate Star Ratings Letter

Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Bob Casey (D-PA) have extended the deadline for senators to sign on to their bipartisan letter asking the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to incorporate social determinants of health and socioeconomic status when updating the overall hospital star rating methodology.

In an Action Alert, America’s Essential Hospitals called on member hospitals to urge their senators to sign the Portman-Casey letter by the new deadline of March 6.

Additional Congressional Hearings

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a March 3 legislative hearing on more than a dozen bills to address substance use disorders, including the Opioid Workforce Act of 2019 (H.R. 3414), which would increase the number of residency slots for graduate medical education payments under Medicare.

Meanwhile, the House Committee on the Budget will hold a March 4 hearing on the president’s proposed health care budget for fiscal year 2021. HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan will testify on the funding priorities in the budget plan.

Policy Assembly Reminder

In anticipation of our upcoming spring Policy Assembly, we would like to remind our attending members they are responsible for scheduling meetings with their congressional delegations before arriving in Washington.

Please reach out to cjackson@essenitalhospitals.org with questions.

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About the Author

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

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