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On the Hill: Site Neutral Letter, SCOTUS Vacancy, FY 2017 Budget

Last week, America’s Essential Hospitals sent a letter to Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chair Joe Pitts (R-PA) that responded to their request for comment on Medicare’s new site-neutral payment policy for off-campus hospital outpatient departments (HOPDs). The change, made under Section 603 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, begins Jan. 1, 2017, and affects HOPDs that were not billing Medicare as of the law’s enactment date of Nov. 2, 2015.

The policy change would reduce payment for some services by as much as half. Since this policy was introduced, America’s Essential Hospitals has strongly advocated for an exemption for hospitals that open an off-campus hospital outpatient department in an underserved area or a clinic that cares for vulnerable populations. The association also urged the committee to exempt clinics currently under development or in the process of relocating.

Pressure on SCOTUS Vacancy

After the Presidents Day recess, the House and Senate are back in session. Senate Democrats are pressuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to reconsider his position that the Senate should wait until after the 2016 election before confirming a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

FY 2017 Budget

The House Republican leadership is working on garnering support for a fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget blueprint based on the fall 2015 agreement between the White House and Republicans. Over the course of the next few weeks, administration officials will testify on Capitol Hill regarding the president’s budget request released earlier this month. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell will testify before the Energy and Commerce Committee Feb. 24 and before the House Committee on Appropriations Feb. 25.

Committee Hearings

In other committee business, this week the Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing titled “Examining the Opiod Epidemic: Challenges and Opportunities.” Witnesses represented Children and Family Futures, the Oregon Department of Justice, and Pew Charitable Trusts. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing on the Zika virus and expects to hear from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

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About the Author

Walsh is the senior manager of legislative affairs for America's Essential Hospitals.