Congress returns to Washington, DC this week with an uncertain agenda heading into the few months before primary and general election season. Fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending legislation has been passed, but the key legislative priorities passed by House Democrats have not been taken up in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) continues to focus on confirming President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees.
The path forward for health care legislation remains somewhat clear. When Congress approved FY 2020 spending legislation, the health care extenders package was punted to May 22, when funding for key programs such as community health centers will run out and Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) cuts will go into effect. Many other health care issues could join the fray ahead of May 22, including legislation to address surprise bills and prescription drug pricing.
GNYHA’s top priority for the May 22 package is eliminating Medicaid DSH cuts for at least two years. The DSH program is vitally important to safety net hospitals nationwide, and allowing the cuts to go into effect would severely limit their ability to provide care to the most vulnerable communities. We also will continue to push the Opioid Workforce Act of 2019 to increase outdated caps on Medicare-reimbursed physician residency slots.
Congress must not cut hospitals to pay for other health care priorities. Specifically, Congress must not enact provider cuts or pass surprise billing legislation that benefits for-profit insurers at the expense of hospitals.
Surprise billing remains a particularly contentious issue, with both the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee passing separate surprise billing proposals last week. While GNYHA is concerned about some aspects of the Ways and Means bill, it is superior to other proposals because it rejects paying providers a benchmark rate tied to median in-network rates, which would benefit insurers at the expense of providers. The Ways and Means Committee worked with the hospital and doctor communities to craft the legislation. We appreciate their efforts and look forward to continuing to work with them. GNYHA is especially grateful for Ways and Means Committee members Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Brian Higgins (D-NY), and Tom Reed (R-NY), who voted for the proposal.
Unfortunately, the Education and Labor proposal includes dangerous benchmark rate-setting provisions that are similar to provisions in the “compromise proposal” released in December by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR), and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN). We appreciate that Education and Labor Committee member Joe Morelle (D-NY) worked to oppose the legislation. He remains one of the foremost experts in Congress on this issue.
Leadership will likely craft the final surprise billing legislation, which could be included in the May 22 health care package. We will continue to advocate for Congressional leaders to ensure that any proposal that passes is fair to providers, doctors, and patients. For more information on what effective surprise billing legislation should seek to accomplish, GNYHA’s surprise billing principles can be found here.
GNYHA will keep you apprised of any relevant developments on Capitol Hill. For additional information, refer to our document outlining our Federal legislative priorities for the winter.