Legislative Update: September 10, 2019

Congress returned to work this week after the summer recess. They will now be in session for only 16 legislative days and face a jam-packed agenda.
 
First on the to-do list is funding federal agencies for fiscal year (FY) 2020, which begins on October 1st.
 
There are 12 individual appropriations bills that provide funding across the government. None of these bills have been enacted yet, which means that funding has yet to be resolved for the upcoming fiscal year. Lawmakers are fast at work considering appropriations bills in the relevant Committees. The Senate will consider the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill in Committee on September 10th. This legislation provides the bulk of funding for discretionary health programs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The House already passed funding for HHS, but this legislation may need to be revised as the appropriations process moves forward.
 
From an overall perspective, it is expected that funding for HHS as well as some of the larger agencies, like the Department of Defense, will be resolved before the end of the month.
 
For any agency that does not receive funding, the Congress will need to pass a “continuing resolution (a “CR”)” to provide funding until the appropriations process is complete. At this point, it is unclear whether the “CR” will just be a few weeks funding extension or a funding extension through the end of the calendar year.
 
The length of the CR extension is important because it is likely that other legislative priorities – including those related to health care and Medicare – will be held up until the appropriations process is resolved. In other words, if the CR is for just one month, then there may be an opportunity to legislate health care items at that point. If the CR goes until December 31st, then action on finalizing health care priorities may be delayed into December.
 
While the appropriations work is underway, key health care Committees are continuing to develop proposals around hot-button issues, including policies to end “surprise medical billing” and proposals to reduce prescription drug prices. In addition, Committees are likely to also consider other proposals into the fall, which provides an ongoing opportunity to advocate for consideration of legislation related to home health and hospice care.
 
Regarding home health, it remains important for ElevatingHOME members to reach out to Congress to ask for action on the “Home Health Payment Innovation Act (H.R. 2573, S. 433)”. This legislation would protect access to home health care by ensuring any PDGM payment changes are made based only on actual experience and data. The legislation would specifically prohibit any payment reductions until 2025 and cap any payment reduction at no more than 2% per year.
 
It is critical that ElevatingHOME and VNAA members reach out to their Members of Congress to urge lawmakers to sign on as a supporter of the PDGM legislation (H.R. 2573/S.433).
 
The more lawmakers that agree to cosponsor and support the PDGM legislation, the better chance the legislation will be taken up by key Committees in time to fix PDGM before the January implementation.
 
We appreciate your work in contacting your local lawmakers and ElevatingHOME will continue to urge Congress to pass this critical legislation.