This Week in Washington: House Ways and Means Committee marks up telehealth legislation; CMS extends state Medicaid unwinding flexibilities; Senate HELP Committee ranking member releases white paper outlining possible NIH reforms.

House

House Ways and Means Committee Marks Up Telehealth Legislation

On May 8, the House Ways and Means Committee marked up and reported out of committee six bills that preserve telehealth and health-at-home service flexibilities, prevent rural hospital closures, strengthen ambulance service access and expand the number of doctors and nurses in rural communities.

The bills are:

H.R. 8261, Preserving Telehealth, Hospital and Ambulance Access Act: Expands Medicare telehealth flexibilities for two years, Hospital-at-Home flexibilities for five years and Medicare supplemental payments for rural hospitals and ambulance services.

H.R. 7931, Preserving Emergency Access in Key Sites (PEAKS) Act: Permanently expands Medicare emergency ambulance coverage for mountainous communities.

H.R. 8245, Rural Hospital Stabilization Act: Establishes grants to help rural hospitals stabilize their finances and carry out minor renovations, care delivery training and equipment acquisition.

H.R. 8244, Ensuring Seniors’ Access to Quality Care Act: Allows nursing homes to continue operating their certified nurse assistant training program if they incur fines, so long as the fines are unrelated to direct resident care.

H.R. 8235, Rural Physician Workforce Preservation Act: Ensures 10 percent of the 1,200 Medicare Graduate Medical Education slots reserved for rural hospitals are appropriately distributed.

H.R. 8246, Second Chances for Rural Hospitals Act: Expands Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) eligibility by allowing hospitals that have been closed since 2014 to become a REH and receive additional funding.

For more information, click here.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairmen Send Letter Concerning ASPR Management of SNS Funding

On May 9, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA) and two subcommittee chairmen, Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Morgan Griffith (R-VA), sent a letter to Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell, concerning the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response’s (ASPR) management of supplemental funding for the strategic national stockpile (SNS).

The chairmen are concerned that ASPR has:

  • Inadequately managed SNS funding;
  • Awarded few vendor-managed inventory contracts to resupply SNS products; and
  • Granted SNS warehouse contracts to companies lacking technical expertise.

For more information, click here.

Forty Representatives Send Letter Concerning Hospice Benefit Integrity Issues

On May 7, Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR) and 39 other representatives sent a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure regarding deficiencies, fraud and abuse among hospice providers enrolled in the Medicare program.

The members are concerned that fraudulent hospice providers are enrolling in and receiving payments from the Medicare program and are urging CMS to strengthen its oversight of hospice programs.

For more information, click here.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health Announces Hearing with FDA Officials

On May 22, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing to discuss the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulation of drugs, biologics and medical devices. The directors of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and Center for Devices and Radiological Health will testify.

For more information, click here.

Senate

Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Releases White Paper Outlining Possible NIH Reforms

On May 9, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) released a white paper on the National Institutes of Health (NIH), outlining proposals to modernize and reform NIH transparency, research integrity and grant management.

The ranking member is urging the NIH to:

  • Facilitate biomedical competition and innovation;
  • Utilize artificial intelligence to prioritize grants;
  • Reorganize the Intramural Research Program;
  • Address inconsistencies in research claims; and
  • Implement new oversight tools to identify grant compliance violations.

For more information, click here.

Sen. Marshall to Reintroduce Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act

On May 8, Sen. Marshall (R-KS) announced that he will reintroduce the Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act. This legislation would shift Medicare Advantage prior authorization to an electronic system and establish a real-time decision process.

The bill passed the House in Sept. 2022 but did not pass the Senate due to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost estimate that predicted the bill would cost $16 billion to implement. However, the release of a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services final rule establishing an electronic prior authorization system resulted in the CBO reducing the bill’s cost estimate to zero.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.