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On the Hill: Congress Passes Medicaid Extenders, Stalled on Shutdown

Senate Passes Medicaid Extenders Bill 

The Senate last week approved H.R. 259, the Medicaid Extenders Act of 2019, after the House passed its version of the bill. The legislation targets several Medicaid policies, including:

  • extending for three months funding for the “Money Follows the Person” demonstration program, which helps Medicaid beneficiaries transition from institution- to community-based care settings;
  • extending Medicaid provisions that protect against spousal impoverishment for recipients of home and community-based services;
  • reducing the federal medical assistance percentage for states that have not launched asset-verification programs for determining Medicaid eligibility; and
  • reducing funding for the Medicaid Improvement Fund beginning in fiscal year 2021.

The legislation now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

Senate Introduces Protect Medicaid Act

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) last week introduced S. 131, the Protect Medicaid Act, which would prevent states from using Medicaid funding for the administrative costs of providing health benefits to unauthorized immigrants. The bill also would require the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General to review and report on:

  • how states that provide Medicaid services to undocumented immigrants separate federal and state dollars;
  • whether states providing health benefits to undocumented immigrants use provider taxes; and
  • if undocumented immigrants benefit from covered outpatient drugs under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and the 340B Drug Pricing Program.

The bill has eight cosponsors, including:

  • Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK);
  • Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY);
  • Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS);
  • Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS);
  • Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN);
  • Sen. David Perdue (R-GA);
  • Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT); and
  • Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA).

Government Shutdown Continues

The partial government shutdown continues into its fifth week, with minimal progress in negotiations between White House officials and congressional Democrats.

The latest administration proposal to end the partial government shutdown likely will not receive the 60 votes needed to pass. The bill includes:

  • $5.7 billion for a wall on the border with Mexico;
  • $800 million for humanitarian assistance; and
  • three years of legal status for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals enrollees.

Democrats have signaled they will not support the bill because it still contains border wall funding, and they urged Trump to re-open the government as border security negotiations continue.

Committee Activity

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a Jan. 29 hearing on extending federal funding for community health centers and providers in underserved communities.

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About the Author

Erin Delaney is the legislative affairs associate at America's Essential Hospitals.