Last week, Congress passed and the president signed a comprehensive spending package that includes a provision to delay by an additional five months a $4 billion cut to Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments.
The package funds the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2020, which started Oct. 1. The House advanced the legislation in a 297-120 vote and the Senate followed suit and approved the package by a 71-23 margin.
In addition to continuing the DSH cut delay, the $1.4 trillion package also extends by five months funding for several health care programs, including Community Health Centers. Congress now has until May 22, 2020, to consider funding for these programs before they expire.
Notably, the year-end spending package does not pair DSH relief with Medicaid policy changes, such as non-DSH supplemental reporting requirements. Also, the spending bill excludes provisions to reduce surprise medical bills and drug prices. Congress is expected to consider both issues next year. America’s Essential Hospitals is pleased lawmakers responded to essential hospitals’ calls for a deliberate approach to surprise billing in light of the threat it poses to health care access.
To pay for the short-term health extender funding through May 2020, the package includes the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act of 2019, a bipartisan bill that will prevent drugmakers from limiting access to brand and biologic drugs that are necessary for both generic and biosimilar drug production.
The package includes a two-year funding increase for U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico; reauthorizes and funds the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) for 10 years, through FY 2029; and funds several health programs and initiatives related to mental health and substance use disorder treatment, maternal and child health, and the health care workforce. The package also raises the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21.
House Clears Impeachment Vote
Meanwhile, the House last week approved two articles of impeachment against President Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Shortly after the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced the House would delay delivering the articles of impeachment to the Senate until bipartisan trial procedures are negotiated between Senate leaders Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Charles Schumer (D-NY).
The Senate trial will officially begin once an agreement has been reached on the process. The timing and duration of the trial remain uncertain.
On the Hill to Continue in January
The association’s weekly On the Hill article will return in Latest from Action the week of Jan. 6, when Congress resumes legislative business.