Hospitals lay out priorities for lame-duck Congress

Hospitals lay out priorities for lame-duck Congress

A US trade group representing more than a thousand tax-paying hospitals issued a letter to congressional leadership on Monday listing its legislative priorities for Congress during its upcoming lame duck session.

The Federation of American Hospitals (FAH) specified several policies where it would like to see movement in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer ( DN.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Much of their priorities focused on health care-related bills that were issued during the COVID-19 pandemic meant to respond to financial stressors.

FAH asked that Congress waives the requirements under the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act on Medicare.

The 2010 Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act requires that all new legislation which creates changes to taxes, fees or other mandatory expenditures not increase projected deficits. If these requirements are not met, then programs may face across-the-board cuts.

This penalty, referred to as a “sequestration,” is enforced if Congress has adjourned with more costs than savings as calculated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

FAH said in its letter that hospitals and providers currently face a 4percentage point, across-the-board cut from Medicare payments due to these requirements. As the organization noted, Congress had passed a bill at the end of last year that deferred “sequestration” cuts until the end of 2022.

“As hospitals continue to face historic fiscal and operational challenges from record inflation and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to unprecedented workforce shortages, Congressional action is again needed before the end of the year to prevent these destabilizing and unsustainable reductions from taking effect,” FAH said.

The trade organization also asked that Congress extend a Medicare payment program that provided support to rural hospitals, asking that it be continued for an “extended number of years.”

FAH also voiced its support for the passage of the Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act of 2021, which was passed by the House in September and has been sent to the Senate. The bill would establish new requirements for Medicare Advantage plans to expedite prior authorization and publish reports on how many requests are approved.

“We urge Congress to not let pandemic preparedness, response, and recovery become an afterthought as we eventually emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. We appreciate efforts to pinpoint lessons learned and proposals to invest in resources to confront future pandemics,” said FAH.

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