The House of Representatives last week overwhelmingly passed a continuing resolution (CR) to avert a government shutdown and maintain funding for government operations through Dec. 11.
Of note for essential hospitals, the CR would delay the scheduled Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) cuts and modify the repayment terms for the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program.
The Senate is slated to consider the CR on Sept. 29, the day before the fiscal year ends. The president is expected to sign the legislation following Senate approval.
House Democrats Ready Additional COVID-19 Legislation
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) asked committee chairs to draft revised COVID-19 legislation that might be considered this week.
During negotiations with the White House, Democrats offered to compromise on a COVID-19 relief package with a price tag of $2.2 trillion, which is about the midpoint between the cost of the House-passed HEROES Act ($3 trillion) and Senate Republican leadership’s Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act ($1.1 trillion). However, the Senate did not vote on the HEALS Act, as some Republican lawmakers deemed it too expensive.
Pelosi’s action comes after many moderate Democrats in contested races expressed a need for the House to act on additional COVID-19 relief before the November elections. Republicans, however, have stated they are unlikely to support a bill costing more than $1.5 trillion.
At the same time, Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reopened negotiations on another COVID-19 relief package. It is unclear whether the two sides can bridge the gap in their spending expectations for the next bill.
Supreme Court Confirmation Process Commences
Over the weekend, President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to fill the vacancy left by the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The president’s announcement officially initiated the confirmation process in the Senate.
Barrett will begin meetings with individual senators this week. The Senate Committee on Judiciary announced confirmation hearings will commence the week of Oct. 12. Senate Republican leaders are expected to hold the final vote to confirm Judge Barrett’s nomination before Election Day.
Senate Democrats have indicated they will oppose Judge Barrett’s confirmation based on the implications for affordable health care coverage. They contend that her confirmation would guarantee that the Supreme Court will find the Affordable Care Act, and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions, unconstitutional when the court hears the pending California v. Texas lawsuit.
Notable Legislation and Hearings
Meanwhile, the House is expected to vote on a slew of health care bills this week. Of particular note for essential hospitals, the House will vote on H.R. 4996, an association-supported bill to extend Medicaid coverage to 12 months postpartum.
The House this week also is slated to consider:
- H.R. 2075, legislation to reauthorize school-based health center funding through fiscal year 2024;
- H.R. 4861, which would create a program for screening and care in emergency departments (EDs) for patients at risk of suicide; and
- H.R. 2519, which would offer competitive grants for providers to offer continuing mental health care for individuals who present to the ED with an acute mental health episode.
In House committee work:
- the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a two-day hearing, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, on high prescription drug prices, featuring several pharmaceutical executives;
- the Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a Sept. 30 hearing on ensuring a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine; and
- the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis will hold a hybrid hearing on Oct. 2, featuring Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.