Long-Term Care and Rural Hospital Bills Pass House

On September 20, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that is intended to provide relief to long-term care hospitals from the "25 percent rule." The CMS rule, which has been delayed by Congress for years, allows for no more than 25 percent of patients to come from one inpatient acute care hospital in one quarter. The threshold was 50 percent, but CMS is phasing back in the 25 percent threshold. The bill (H.R. 5713), which was sponsored by Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pat Tiberi (R-OH), passed 420 to 3. The measure would reinstate the 50 percent threshold that was in effect prior to July 1, 2016 and delay the rule for long-term care hospital discharges between October 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017.

On September 21, the House passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) that would further delay implementation of a CMS rule requiring physicians to be present for minor outpatient procedures. In both 2014 and 2015, Congress delayed enforcement of the physician supervision requirement, which impacts critical access and rural hospitals. A similar measure is expected to pass the Senate before the end of the year.

House Committee Passes Six Public Health Bills

On September 20, the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced six public health bills by unanimous voice vote. Those measures include:

  • A bill by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) to permit trained emergency medical service professionals to administer controlled substances governed by the Controlled Substances Act to patients in a non-hospital setting under the supervision of a physician. The measure (H.R.4365) would also relax certain regulations to allow hospitals to restock emergency medical vehicles with controlled substances.
  • A bill (H.R. 1209) sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) to mandate that the federal government collect more information on primary care professional shortage areas specifically for maternity care. The legislation (H.R. 1209) would also allocate maternity care providers based on an area or population's specific needs.
  • A bill (H.R. 2713) sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) that would reauthorize the Health Resources and Services Administration's nursing workforce development programs through fiscal year 2020 and update those programs to reflect current nursing practices.
  • A bill sponsored by Rep. Lynn Jenkins to reauthorize a federal grant program for mental health first aid training courses by expanding training to help emergency services, police officers, educators and the public identify and respond to people experiencing mental health issues and substance use disorders.

Congress Continues Funding Debate

With only eight days remaining before the end of the fiscal year, Congress continued debate on a short-term government funding bill. On September 22, Republican leadership in the Senate released a proposal that includes $37 million in new funding for opioid abuse and $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus. The Senate has four days to review the text of the short-term continuing resolution that would extend fiscal year 2016 funding through December 9. House and Senate Democrats have expressed unhappiness with the Republican proposal, which indicates that lawmakers could remain in Washington right up to the September 30 deadline instead of leaving town until after the November election.

Health-Related Bills Introduced This Week

Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) introduced legislation that would delay for one year the release of the Overall Hospital Quality Star Rating program. The measure requires HHS to remove the ratings from the Hospital Compare website as soon as reasonably possible if it publishes them before the bill is enacted.

Next Week in Washington

The House and Senate return on Monday, September 26 to attempt passage of a short-term funding bill before September 30. On September 27, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing on expanded access to investigational therapies. On September 28, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold an oversight hearing on health care fraud.