Congress Begins August Recess

On August 5, Senate leaders determined that no further action was likely on pending legislative matters and called for the start of the August recess break.  Prior to adjourning, the Senate passed amended measures seeking an adjustment of the management of electronic health records on patient encounters in ambulatory surgical centers (S. 1347) and allowing a waiver for an all-inclusive care demonstration program for the elderly (S. 1362).  

With Congress out until September, the next This Week in Washington will be published on September 11.   

CMS Issues Final Hospital Pay Rule

On July 31, CMS issued final pay rules for hospitals, long-term care hospitals, hospice and other health service facilities.  The hospital pay rule increases payment rates 0.9 percent for general acute care hospitals in fiscal year 2016.  The rule updates policies for the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program, Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, Hospital Acquired Conditions Reduction Program, and Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program.  The final rule also includes requirements for critical access hospitals participating in the electronic reporting of clinical quality measures for the EHR Incentive Programs. 

Medicare payments for all long-term acute care hospitals ("LTCHs") would decrease by 4.6 percent for the fiscal year beginning October 1.  The cuts are attributed to a 2013 law that tightened eligibility for LTCHs.  The payment rule will affect approximately 435 LTCHs.   

Hospices will get an estimated 1.1 percent increase in their fiscal year 2016 Medicare payments.  The draft rule released in the spring had called for a 0.3 percent increase.  

Mental Health Bill Introduced in the Senate

Late last week, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced a comprehensive mental health bill focused on improving suicide prevention programs.  The introduction by Alexander, the Chairman of the Senate Health committee, adds to the growing momentum on Capitol Hill for movement of a major mental health bill this year.  Three other mental health bills, by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) (no relation) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), have been introduced this Congress.   

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee postponed a markup session that was originally scheduled for this week on the mental health legislation.  It will most likely be rescheduled for September.  

Bills Introduced This Week

No health-related bills were introduced this week.  

Next Week in Washington 

The House and Senate are now adjourned and will reconvene on September 8.  The House will have just 10 scheduled legislative days before the end of the fiscal year to resolve a myriad of appropriations bills among other items.