CHA News Article

Senate Reaches Budget Agreement
House and Senate votes expected tonight

Congressional leaders announced Wednesday that they reached an agreement on a measure that will not only fund the federal government through March 23, but also set spending levels for the next two years. The bill’s two-year budget agreement increases defense and domestic spending by approximately $300 billion, increases the debt ceiling and provides disaster relief to areas hit by last year’s wildfires and hurricanes. Of note to the hospital community, the new spending caps were not offset or paid for with spending cuts. In the past, lifting spending caps and raising the debt ceiling have often been offset by significant cuts to Medicare providers.

Significantly for hospitals and health systems, the Senate bill builds on the health care-related provisions in the bill passed by the House on Feb. 6. Both bills include a two-year delay in Medicaid disproportionate share hospital cuts, a repeal of Medicare therapy caps and an extension of critical rural hospital provisions. They also include improvements to telehealth coverage, funds for community health centers and an extension of the moratorium on enforcement of the “direct supervision” policy for small and rural hospitals.

The Senate bill extends authorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program for four years, bringing the total to 10 years when added to the previous six-year reauthorization. It also eliminates the Independent Payment Advisory Board and codifies recent changes to the Stark law. 

The House and Senate are expected to vote Thursday night.

Attached is a section-by-section summary of the bill. There are differences between the House and Senate provisions related to the payment cut for hospice patients and the qualifications for the Medicare low-volume adjustment. CHA is working on a summary and will share more information via CHA News.