Congress Passes FY 2015 Omnibus Bill

On December 11, the House passed the continuing resolution/omnibus spending bill that will fund the federal government through September 30, 2015. The House also passed a two-day continuing resolution that provides the Senate time to debate the House-passed legislation and avoid a government shutdown that would have occurred at midnight Thursday. The Senate is expected to pass the larger House-passed measure today.

The bill (H.R. 83) leaves CMS’s funding frozen at 2014 levels and does not provide extra implementation funding for the ACA. The bill includes a provision that prohibits funding of the ACA risk corridor program for insurers through September 2015. The bill also rescinds $10 million in funding for the Independent Payment Advisory Board (“IPAB”). The IPAB has not yet been formed and was not expected to be needed until at least 2018.

The bill, however, has relatively little impact on other domestic health care issues. Medicare providers had hoped the omnibus would provide an opportunity for Congress to pay for a permanent “doc fix.” The issue was instead pushed to March 2015, with the possibility of another extension looming.

House Committee Requests Information on GME Program

On December 6, the House Energy and Commerce committee published an open letter seeking input from hospitals on the Graduate Medical Education (“GME”) program. Earlier in the year, the Institute of Medicine released a report examining and making recommendations for sweeping changes to the financing, governance and design of the GME program. The committee believes additional information is needed and is seeking input. The letter asks seven specific questions concerning the GME program and requests feedback no later than Friday, January 16, 2015.

CMS Releases Rebidding Timeline for Medicare DME Program

On December 11, CMS released the timeline for the recompete of Round 2 of the Medicare durable medical equipment (“DME”) Competitive Bidding Program.

CMS will open the bidding window on January 22, 2015; it will close on March 25, 2015. The contracting process will begin in the winter of 2016 and implementation of the new contracts and prices will take place by July 1, 2016. CMS must rebid contracts under the Competitive Bidding Program at least every three years. CMS also announced a comprehensive bidder education program designed to ensure that DME suppliers interested in bidding receive the information and assistance they need to submit complete bids.

Bills Introduced This Week

Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) introduced a bill (H.R. 5809) that would require state licensure and bid surety bonds for entities submitting bids under the Medicare DME program. Similar legislation was introduced last week in the Senate by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). Despite the legislation being introduced, Congress has little appetite to make changes to the Medicare DME Competitive Bidding Program.

Next Week in Washington

With the expected Senate passage of the omnibus spending package, Congress will adjourn sine die and the 113th Congress will be closed. The 114th Congress is scheduled to begin on January 6, 2015.