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Tag Archive | "FMAP"

Capital Thinking Podcast

Last week, as the Senate remained in session to finish up some last-minute business before the August recess, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Washington Senator Patty Murray led an effort to pass a $26.1 billion state-aid package. The measure, in the form of a substitute amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, provides $16.1 billion to state governments to put towards their Medicaid expenses. It accomplishes this by extending the increases in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) for a total of six months, a provision that originated in the stimulus bill.

Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe provided crucial votes for the majority, enabling them to suspend debate and ultimately win passage on the amended bill. The Congressional Budget Office scored the bill as being deficit-neutral over the ten year window in part to a number of revenue-raising provisions including cuts in the food stamp program and international tax credits, as well as recessions to a wide variety of other programs. Although many of these cuts drew criticism, the bill is being praised by many states that are desperately in need of the Medicaid funds.

In wake of the Senate’s passage of the bill, House Democratic leadership announced that it would be calling members back into session this week in order to consider the legislation. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that the House will meet in pro forma session today and again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday to “vote on the bill and send it to the president for his signature.” Although many members may be reluctant to vote for another spending measure in such proximity to the upcoming elections, the fact that both of the major provisions in the bill have already been passed through the House on two separate occasions bodes well for its chances this time around.

After the final vote on the Medicaid bill, the Senate was also able to achieve passage of Senator Blanche Lincoln’s bill to reauthorize federal children’s nutrition programs, as well as a prescription drug disposal bill. Senators are scheduled to return to Washington on September 13, and will begin consideration of competing amendments to a small business bill soon thereafter. The amendments, offered by Senators Mike Johanns and Bill Nelson, would adjust IRS vendor-purchase tax reporting requirements included in the health care overhaul law. In addition, the Johanns amendment would eliminate a preventive care trust fund and decrease the requirements for mandatory health coverage beginning in 2014.

Last week also saw the release of the annual Medicare and Social Security Trustees Report, which depicted an overly optimistic view of the future of Medicare, although the validity of that report has been questioned given that the authors were all members of the current administration.

State challenges to the health care reform law also received a boost last week as a federal court rejected the administration’s request to dismiss the Virginia lawsuit questioning the law’s constitutionality. Additionally, voters in Missouri overwhelmingly supported a measure to repeal the individual mandate created in the reform law, becoming the first state to overturn a central element of the law. This could be the first in a string of such actions taken by individual states in the coming months, as there continues to be growing anxiety over the implementation of state-based insurance exchanges.

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Last week, the House and Senate adjourned for the Fourth of July recess without extending the Medicaid FMAP funding increase or COBRA insurance despite the call of numerous Governors on Congress to extend the enhanced FMAP funding through June 2011. Republican Senators continue to object to extending these provisions unless they are fully offset. Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts introduced a bill to extend the FMAP funding. The bill would be paid for with unused stimulus funding. However, reapportioning stimulus funding stands little chance of being politically palatable to Democrats. Congressional staff have signaled determination in passing an FMAP extension, perhaps in a supplemental spending bill or Gulf relief legislation.

The House amended and passed a Senate-approved war supplementing spending bill before it adjourned. The House amended the bill to include Senator Herb Kohl’s legislation, the “Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act,” which would ban agreements between brand name and generic drug manufacturers. Senator Kohl has called such agreements “one of the most egregious tactics used to keep generic competitors off the market leaving consumers with unnecessarily high drug prices.” The Generic Pharmaceutical Association, however, expressed opposition to the amendment noting that such agreements have, at times, allowed generic drugs to come to market before the patents of the name brand drugs expire.

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released the 2011 Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule. CMS estimated that without Congressional action, physician payments would be cut by 23 percent beginning on December 1 and reduced by an additional 6.1 percent beginning January 1, 2011. Congress is almost certain to have a lame duck session in which Members will pass another short-term SGR fix.

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On June 24, the House passed the “Preservation of Access to Care for Medicare Beneficiaries and Pension Relief Act of 2010,” which will increase Medicare reimbursement to physicians by 2.2 percent through November 30, 2010.  President Obama signed the legislation into law on June 25.  Amy Hall, Director of the Office of Legislation at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a notice to Hill staff explaining that Medicare physician “claims containing June 2010 dates of services which have been paid at the negative update rates will be reprocessed as soon as possible.”  The notification indicated that contractors have been instructed to stop processing claims with the 21 percent cut and to hold claims for services provided in June until the 2.2 percent update is loaded into the claims processing systems.

After eight weeks of consideration of various versions of the “American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010” (H.R. 4213) that would extend the Medicaid FMAP funding increase, COBRA insurance, and unemployment benefits, the Senate continues to be in a holding pattern.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid most recently failed to get 60 Senators to support cloture on June 24.  Senator Ben Nelson voted with Republicans to block the measure.   The majority has not signaled whether it will try to pass another version this week, but it is the last week Congress is in session before the week-long July 4th recess.

HHS has two major deadlines mandated by the health reform law, the Affordable Care Act, this week – the Department must establish high-risk pools and launch a health insurance web portal by July 1.  Thirty-one states have agreed to run their own high-risk pools, while 20 states will have pools administered by the federal government.

This week the House Education and Labor Committee will hold a hearing on H.R.5504, the “Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act.”  The bipartisan bill aims to improve the meals children eat both in and out of schools, as well as support community efforts to reduce childhood hunger.  Additionally, the legislation establishes nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools.  The Senate Agriculture Committee has already marked-up its version of a child nutrition reauthorization bill, which awaits floor time.

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Senate Continues Consideration of Extenders Package

The Senate continues to focus its attention on consideration of legislation to extend unemployment benefits, COBRA insurance, and the increased FMAP rate.  This afternoon, Senate Finance Republicans circulated the most recent Senate amendment in the nature of a substitute for H.R. 4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, compared to an earlier version along with a CBO score of the legislation.

On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) indicated that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) is working to revise the substitute amendment.  The Majority Leader signaled that he will determine how to proceed on the measure later tonight or tomorrow morning. 

UPDATE:  Sen. Baucus filed a revised subsitute amendment during the evening of June 23. A cloture vote on the measure is expected on Friday.

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After another turbulent week in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was only able to pass a six month SGR extension by unanimous consent. The fix applies through November 30, 2010 and is fully offset using various revenue raisers. The significantly trimmed down bill only addresses physician payments under Medicare and does not include unemployment compensation, Medicaid FMAP funding, COBRA insurance subsidies, or any of the other health provisions included in the previous versions of a substitute amendment that failed to garner enough votes to pass though the Senate.

Because the House of Representatives adjourned last weekend, the lower chamber must consider the legislation early next week before the payment changes take effect. Subsequently, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has directed Medicare contractors to begin processing physician reimbursements for the month of June with the scheduled 21.2% cut mandated by law. With regard to the broader extenders package, Senator Reid did not signal when or how the majority intends to proceed on that measure.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology issued a final rule to establish a temporary certification program for electronic health record technology. The temporary certification program establishes processes that organizations will need to follow in order to be authorized by the National Coordinator to test and certify EHR technology. ONC said it expects to release a final rule on the permanent EHR certification program this fall.

The week the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission’s June 2010 Report entitled Aligning Incentives in Medicare. The report will address MedPAC’s recommendations on Graduate Medical Education payments, policy options to address the increase of in-office ancillary services, and coordinating care for dual eligibles.

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Extending The Extenders Package

This week the Senate will resume consideration of the “American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act” (H.R. 4213), a substitute amendment released by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. The legislation would provide a 2.2 percent update to physicians for the remainder of 2010 and a 1 percent increase in 2011 bill at a cost of $144 billion. The key difference in the health provisions of the House and Senate extenders legislation is that the Senate version includes a six-month extension through June 30, 2011 of the enhanced Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentages (FMAP) rate. Senate Republicans introduced an alternative package that reduces the deficit by $55 billion. The amendment extends the “doc fix” an additional year and provides a 2 percent increase in reimbursement levels for 2010, and additional 2 percent increases in both 2011 and 2012.  Other potential amendments filed include an extension of COBRA benefits for unemployed worker health insurance, and adjustments to the 340B inpatient discount program.

The Administration continues to promote the effects of the new health care reform law across the country. President Obama hosted a town hall meeting to announce the mailing of $250 checks to assist seniors whose drug coverage found them in the “dount hole” causing high out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs.

Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee George Miller introduced the House’s version of a child nutrition reauthorization bill, the “Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act.” The legislation would authorize the Department of Agriculture to set nutrition standards for all foods sold or served at schools, as well as raise reimbursement rates for schools that meet higher nutritional standards, and improved food safety requirements for schools meals programs. Additionally, it aims to improve program administration, support services and program access and modernize the WIC program by extending period of certification for children, increasing support for breastfeeding, and transitioning from paper food vouchers to an electronic benefit program. Chairman Miller stated that the legislation mirrors key investments proposed by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in her “Let’s Move” initiative, including reducing childhood obesity and improving school wellness. The Senate version has already been considered by the Senate Agriculture Committee and awaits floor time.

This week, the Health Subcommittee and the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a joint hearing on reducing fraud, waste and abuse in Medicare on Tuesday, and the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled “NIH in the 21st Century: The Director’s Perspective” also on Tuesday.

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Congress to Consider Extenders Legislation This Week

This week, the House and Senate are expected to consider and vote on the “American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act” (H.R. 4213). House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sandy Levin and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus released the tax extenders legislation last week, which includes several health care provisions, including a six-month extension of the temporary increase in Federal Medicaid Matching Rate and extension of COBRA premium subsidy for individuals terminated on or before December 31, 2010. The bill would also provide an update to physicians for the remainder of 2010 and 2011. Payment rates would increase in 2012 and 2013 if spending growth is within reasonable limits. The bill provides an extra allowance for primary and preventive care in 2012 and 2013.

IRS Issues Guidance on Therapeutic Discovery Project Program

The Administration continues to rollout health reform regulations. Last week, the Internal Revenue Service released guidance on the Therapeutic Discovery Project Program that was established in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The health reform law authorized a two-year tax credit designed to encourage investments in new therapies to prevent, diagnose, and treat chronic diseases. Firms with 250 employees or less could receive up to 50 percent of the cost of biomedical research up to a maximum credit of $5 million. Applications for the credit are due on July 21, 2010. The IRS will make determinations of eligibility for credits no later than October 29, 2010.

National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility Reconvenes

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility will convene for its second meeting, this time on the Hill, on Wednesday. The meeting will be webcast at www.whitehouse.gov/live. The Commission has issued a request for comments and ideas to address the country’s fiscal challenges. Comments can be emailed to commission@fc.eop.gov and will be part of the public record.

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