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March 08, 2024

Washington Roundup

  • Federal News Network reports,
    • “The House passed a $460 billion package of spending bills Wednesday March 6 that would keep money flowing to key federal agencies through the remainder of the budget year. The Senate is expected to take up the legislation before a midnight Friday shutdown deadline.
    • “Lawmakers are negotiating a second package of six bills, including defense, in an effort to have all federal agencies fully funded before a March 22 deadline. In the end, total discretionary spending set by Congress is expected to come in at about $1.66 trillion for the full entire year. 
    • “A significant number of House Republicans have lined up in opposition to the spending packages, forcing House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to use an expedited process to bring the bill up for a vote. That process requires two-thirds of the House to vote for the measure for it to pass.
    • “The House passed the measure by a vote of 339-85.”
  • American Hospital Association (“AHA”) News tells us
    • The health care provisions [in this package] would eliminate Medicaid disproportionate share hospital cuts for FY 2024 and delay FY 2025 DSH cuts to Jan. 1, 2025; extend the Medicare-dependent hospital and enhanced low-volume hospital programs through December 2024; reduce a 3.34% physician payment cut that began Jan. 1; and extend the Community Health Centers, National Health Service Corps, and Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education programs through December.
  • The AHA News adds,
    • “The House March 5 voted 382-12 to pass the AHA-supported Preventing Maternal Deaths Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3838), bipartisan legislation that would reauthorize federal support for state-based committees that review pregnancy-related deaths to identify causes and make recommendations to prevent future mortalities. Passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee last July, the bill also would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with the Health Resources and Services Administration to disseminate best practices to prevent maternal mortality to hospitals and other health care providers.”
  • Axios tells us that in the wake of the CDC’s recent decision to treat Covid like other respiratory illnesses,
    • “The HHS’s free COVID test program was suspended because of the lowering case rates after the winter respiratory season, though the agency may resume it in the future as needed.
    • “Orders for free tests placed on or before Friday March 8 will be delivered, per HHS.” 
  • Per a March 5 HHS press release,
    • “The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) jointly launched a cross-government public inquiry into private-equity and other corporations’ increasing control over health care.
    • “Private equity firms and other corporate owners are increasingly involved in health care system transactions and, at times, those transactions may lead to a maximizing of profits at the expense of quality care. The cross-government inquiry seeks to understand how certain health care market transactions may increase consolidation and generate profits for firms while threatening patients’ health, workers’ safety, quality of care and affordable health care for patients and taxpayers.
    • “The agencies issued a Request for Information – PDF (RFI) requesting public comment on deals conducted by health systems, private payers, private equity funds and other alternative asset managers that involve health care providers, facilities or ancillary products or services. The RFI also requests information on transactions that would not be reported to the Justice Department or FTC for antitrust review under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act.”
  • Healthcare Dive informs us,
    • “The CMS rolled out several flexibilities on Tuesday March 5 that aim to help providers’ mounting financial challenges in the wake of the cyberattack against Change Healthcare.
    • “The agency instructed Medicare administrative contractors, who process claims for the government, to expedite provider requests to switch to new clearinghouses to get around the Change outage. CMS is also encouraging Medicare Advantage plans, Part D sponsors, and Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program managed care plans to relax prior authorization requirements or offer advance funding. 
    • “The agency said providers can submit requests for accelerated payment to their Medicare administrative contractors for individual consideration.”
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