Health-Related Bills Tee-Up for Possible Senate Finance Markup

The Senate Finance Committee is expected to mark up a number of health care bills that address issues regarding observation status notification and anti-fraud procedures.

Legislation that could potentially be marked up by the committee include: the Preventing and Reducing Improper Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures Act (S. 861); the Electronic Health Fairness Act (S. 1347), which would exempt Medicare patients treated in ambulatory surgical centers in determining physicians’ meaningful electronic health record use; and the Notice of Observation, Treatment and Implication for Care Eligibility Act, which would require hospitals to notify beneficiaries when they are placed under observation status instead of hospital inpatient status.

Also included on the committee’s list are several bills aimed at rural health, including the Rural ACO Improvement Act, which recognizes primary care services provided by rural health facilities for beneficiary assignment in Medicare accountable care organizations; a bill to extend the moratorium on the outpatient supervision rule for critical access and small rural hospitals (S. 1461); and the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Extension Act (S. 607), which extends the program for five years.

Proposed Rule on 340B Drug Program Penalties Nears Release

The Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) has completed its review of a proposed rule related to the 340B drug discount program. The rule addresses civil monetary penalties and ceiling prices for drug makers in the 340B drug discount program. The proposal is expected to be released soon.

Still under review by the OMB is a broad proposed guidance document submitted by the Health Resources and Services Administration last month. The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on the 340B program in March, and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has been asked to by lawmakers to provide input even though the program does not fall into its jurisdiction.

House Votes to Remove Medicare Sequester Cuts from Trade Bill

On June 11, the House voted 397-32 to remove Medicare cuts from legislation that would have used Medicare dollars to help pay for the expansion of the Trade Assistance Adjustment program.

The Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015 now must pass in the Senate, which approved the Medicare cuts on May 22 despite opposition from provider groups. Providers have been fighting the offset because they worry that Congress is becoming too reliant on turning to the Medicare sequester for money.

The cuts would extend sequestration through 2024 and add an additional 0.25 percent cut to the 2 percent cut implemented in 2013. That additional cut would take $700 million from Medicare in 2024. The Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015 would instead create funding for the TAA by bolstering federal tax compliance laws.

Bills Introduced This Week

Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) introduced the No Subsidies Without Verification Act of 2015 to delay the provision of Affordable Care Act premiums and cost-sharing subsidies until such subsidies undergo an eligibility verification process.  The bill (H.R. 2711) would protect beneficiaries from unexpected tax liabilities by guarding against improper payments of taxpayer-funded subsidies under the ACA.

Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) introduced bipartisan legislation designed to deliver advanced care coordination for Medicare beneficiaries with serious illnesses. The Care Planning Act of 2015 (S. 1549) creates a Medicare benefit for patient-centered care planning and would reimburse health care professionals for providing patients with information about treatment options and goals.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) introduced a bill (S. 1461) to extend the delay on the enforcement of supervision requirements for outpatient therapeutic services in critical access and small rural hospitals through CY 2015.

Next Week in Washington

The House and Senate return on Monday. In the Senate, the appropriations committee is set to begin work on the bill that funds many of the federal health programs. The Committee is hoping to mark up the bill by the end of the month. The House Appropriations Committee has not yet scheduled a markup for its version of the bill.