With the Aug. 8 start of its summer recess looming, the Senate this week is working to consider and vote on a $433 billion climate, tax, and drug pricing package, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a stripped-down version of the Build Back Better Act.
The Inflation Reduction Act
The Inflation Reduction Act grew from negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) on legislation to pass via reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority in the Senate rather than the 60 votes typically needed to overcome a filibuster. Of interest to essential hospitals, the bill would allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and would extend expanded Affordable Care Act subsidies for three years, through 2025.
The bill includes several tax provisions, including a 15 percent alternative minimum tax for large corporations, and would make investments related to energy and climate change, including in domestic energy production and manufacturing and carbon emission reductions. The bill would reduce the federal deficit by more than $300 billion.
The Inflation Reduction Act currently is being reviewed by the Senate parliamentarian to ensure it meets the requirements of the reconciliation process. Senate Democrats also are working to add legislative text to lower the price of insulin, an uncontroversial change. If the Senate does bring the bill to the floor for a vote this week, it will be preceded by up to 20 hours of debate and a “vote-a-rama” on an unlimited number of amendments.
Telehealth Bill Passes in House
On July 27, the House of Representatives passed the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID–19 Act (H.R. 4040) with a 416-12 vote. The bill would extend through 2024 certain telehealth policies under Medicare that were initially authorized at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, including removing geographic restrictions and expanding originating sites; allowing for an expanded group of clinicians to bill for telehealth services; allowing mental health services furnished through telehealth for up to six months without an in-person meeting; and permitting audio-only telehealth services, when clinically appropriate.
It is unlikely the Senate will take up the measure before the midterm elections. But current law allows for continuing COVID-19 telehealth flexibility for 151 days after the end of the public health emergency.
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