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On the Hill: SGR, Budget, Health Hearings

This week Congress returns from a two-week recess to address legislation to permanently repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. Before adjourning in late March, the House passed the legislation in an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 392-37. America’s Essential Hospitals supported passage of the bill. The Senate has yet to consider the legislation, but is expected to do so early this week. The Senate is expected to consider amendments to the bill, any of which – if passed – would send the bill back to the House for a final vote. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has said it can only hold Medicare claims until April 15. If the SGR repeal is not passed before then, physicians would see a substantial reduction in Medicare reimbursement.

Also this week, Congress is working to meet an April 15 deadline to pass a joint budget resolution. The House and Senate passed their respective fiscal year 2016 budget resolutions in March. The chambers are considering using budget reconciliation procedures to pass the resolution, which would allow Senate passage with only a majority of 51 votes, as opposed to the usual 60 votes required to move legislation forward in the Senate. Both the House and Senate-passed budgets included potentially harmful reforms to Medicaid, such as creating Medicaid block grants, which would limit Medicaid spending in states and likely lead to inadequate coverage for Medicaid enrollees.

In committee business, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing Thursday on Medicare postacute care delivery. The House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing Tuesday on the individual and employer mandates under the Affordable Care Act. Also on Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Finance will hold a hearing to review audit and appeals issues in Medicare. Next week, the Finance Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing to review the impact of medical device tax on jobs, innovation, and patients.

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About the Author

Jocelyn Wiles is the manager of legislative affairs at America's Essential Hospitals.