Legislative Update: July 2, 2019

Congress is currently adjourned until after the July 4th holiday. Lawmakers return to Washington on Monday, July 8th and face a laundry list of unfinished health care business.

Before the holiday recess, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee considered and passed out of Committee the “Lower Health Care Costs Act (S. 1895)”. This legislation aims to end surprise medical billing and includes policies to increase prescription drug price transparency and a host of public health provisions. Authors of this legislation will now work to bring the legislation before the full Senate potentially before August.

At the same time, the Senate Finance Committee continues to develop prescription drug pricing proposals. The Committee aims to unveil this legislation in July, but no firm date have been set.

In the House of Representatives, the Ways&Means Committee unanimously passed (with a 41-0 vote) the “Beneficiary Education Tools, Telehealth and Extenders Reauthorization Act of 2019 (“BETTER Act”, H.R. 3417)” on Wedndesday, June 26th. This legislation would extend Medicare payment policies that are set to expire at the end of the fiscal and calendar year. 

Regarding home health and hospice, key lawmakers continue to work with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to determine the federal budget impact of the "Home Health Payment Innovation Act (S. 433, H.R. 2573)". This legislation would ensure the new Medicare home health Patient Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) does not inappropriately reduce payments for home health services starting in fiscal year 2020. The proposal would also waive homebound rules for certain Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage or Medicare Shared Savings Programs.

In order for Congress to move forward on this important legislation, they must first understand whether – and to what degree – it could impact Medicare spending on home care services in the coming years. Once this information is available, the key Committees of jurisdiction (House Ways&Means and Energy&Commerce and the Senate Finance Committee) will be better able to determine next steps on the legislation.

ElevatingHOME will continue to strongly advocate for S. 433 and H.R. 2573 and will provide updates on the PDGM legislation.  In addition, we encourage ElevatingHOME  and VNAA members to continue reaching out to local Members of Congress to express support for this critical legislation.