Ways and Means Announces Hearing on Hospital Issues

On May 13, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health announced it will hold a May 20 hearing on current hospital issues in the Medicare program.  According to the committee press release, the hearing will touch on all current issues relevant to hospitals in the Medicare program.  Members are expected to place emphasis on the CMS two midnights inpatient admissions policy, on the Recovery Audit Contractors ("RAC") program and, potentially, on the Hall Render Stark drafted Stark Law legislation. 

The hearing also comes as the Health Subcommittee works to revise a draft bill that would reform how Medicare pays for post-acute care.  In March, Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee released the Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation ("IMPACT") Act of 2014.  Among many other post-acute care related provisions, the bill would require hospitals to report patient assessment data gathered prior to discharge. 

Senate Committee Pushes Burwell to Review RAC Payments

On May 14, HHS Secretary nominee Sylvia Burwell appeared before the Senate Finance Committee for her Senate confirmation hearing.  Burwell will almost certainly be confirmed when the committee formally votes on the nomination next week, and full Senate approval could come before Memorial Day. 

During the hearing, Senators continued to apply pressure on CMS to overhaul the RAC program to make it harder for RACs to contest hospital payments.  Senators also pressed Burwell on supporting Medicare Advantage plans, replacing the current Medicare physician reimbursement system before the end of the year and the status of the Independent Payment Advisory Board.  While not offering many specific details, Burwell said she was supportive of repealing the SGR and taking a "fresh look" at restricting hospital audits.

Telemedicine Legislation in the Works

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) is preparing to introduce legislation aimed at expanding the use of telehealth technology.  A number of telehealth-related bills (H.R. 3077, H.R. 3308, H.R. 4015, H.R. 3750, H.R. 3507) have already been introduced in Congress.  During a hearing on telehealth technology two weeks ago, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said expanded use of telemedicine technology would be a priority of the committee. 

On May 12, the non-profit Information Technology and Innovation Foundation released areport to promote legislative action on telemedicine issues.  The report recommends federal adoption of a standard definition for telehealth and a single, national license for providers.  It also recommends interoperability among state prescription drug-monitoring programs and increased investment in telehealth research. 

Bills Introduced This Week

Rep. Ralph Hall introduced H.R. 4625, a bill that would amend Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to postpone and evaluate CMS's rebasing of Medicare home health prospective payment amounts.  Under the final rule, CMS rebases payment rates at the maximum cut permitted under the ACA, a cut of 3.5% per year over each of the next four years. 

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced legislation (H.R. 4658) that would amend Title XI of the Social Security Act to eliminate civil monetary penalties for inducements to physicians to limit services that are not medically necessary. 

Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) introduced a bill to amend Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to permit nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, physician assistants and certified nurse-midwives to provide certain certifications with respect to inpatient hospital services under the Medicare program.

Next Week in Washington

The House will return from its weeklong recess. On May 21, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing on ways to modernize and reform Medicare payment structures.