Most of us are especially focused right now on the myriad bills making their way through the 84th Texas Legislature (56 days until sine die).
But, as we all know, Texas hospitals have two masters. One is the state, but the other is the federal government. Even though one is particularly demanding at the moment, we can’t ignore the other.
Just prior to its spring recess, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a large piece of legislation that includes several of Texas hospitals’ federal policy priorities. H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, would:
- permanently repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate formula;
- extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for two years;
- extend the expiration dates of so-called Medicare extenders; and
- make structural reforms to Medicare.
Noteworthy for its bipartisan support and for dealing with a notorious “hot potato” issue, H.R. 2 would permanently replace the Sustainable Growth Rate Formula with a value-based payment system. Most importantly, H.R. 2 does not pay for SGR repeal with draconian hospital cuts as has often been threatened in the past. H.R. 2 also provides funding for CHIP for two more years. In Texas, CHIP covers more than 330,000 children, but they could lose that coverage if funding is not extended beyond September of this year. And H.R. 2 includes essential protections for our state’s rural hospitals.
Our U.S. senators need to hear from us so that they prioritize H.R. 2 when they reconvene on April 13. If the Senate does not pass H.R. 2, Congress will have to pass another temporary SGR fix or subject physicians to a 21 percent reimbursement rate cut, originally scheduled to take effect April 1. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is delaying claims processing so that the physician payment cut does not immediately go into effect. But the agency cannot delay indefinitely. I encourage you to contact Sens. Cornyn and Cruz today through THA’s Voter Voice system.
Also, if you have not already registered for the American Hospital Association’s annual membership conference to be held in early May in Washington, D.C., please do so. This event is a great opportunity to learn more about the federal policy issues affecting hospitals and to connect with our members of Congress so that they hear directly from us about what matters. You can register onlinehere, and I hope to see you there.