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The Voice of Olga Walther
House Passes Spending Bill That Includes Many Medicare Advantage Policies; Senate Announces Two-Year Budget Deal
On Tuesday, the House passed a bill that would fund the government through March 23, 2018. Meanwhile, the Senate leaders announced Wednesday afternoon they have reached an agreement on a two-year spending deal. The Senate budget deal includes another four years of Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding, added to the previously authorized six-year extension. The bill also contains two years of funding for community health centers, and adds $6 billion for the opioid epidemic. The deal will also terminate the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Though it is still uncertain whether the Senate deal has enough support to make it through the House, with both Democrats and budget hawks on the fence, it is reported that the Senate is planning to attach this budget deal to the previously passed House spending bill, and send it back to the House for a vote.
On February 1, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its 2019 Advance Rate Notice (Part II) and Draft Call Letter. CMS estimates an expected increase of 1.84% to payments in 2019. CMS says its estimates do not reflect underlying coding trend, which it expects to increase risk scores by 3.1% in 2019.
Though he was largely expected to step away from remarks on healthcare in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Trump made several remarks regarding his administration’s plans in 2018, which give us some insight into potential actions the administration may take this year.
As expected, on January 11, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its guidance around implementing work requirements through 1115 waivers. Ten states have applied for such a waiver and have pending proposals at CMS.
The Department of Labor (DOL) released a proposed rule making changes to Association Health Plans (AHPs) as directed by President Trump’s Executive Order. Specifically, DOL proposes to make changes to the definition of “employer” in order to expand AHP offerings to consumers. The notice of proposed rulemaking will be published in the Federal Register on January 5, 2018, and be available for public comment for 60 days.
The Office of Management & Budget (OMB) recently approved a long standing proposal from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to change their method of network adequacy review. The proposal has been in the works for quite some time now, and is of no surprise given that a previous review by CMS found forty-five percent of Medicare Advantage (MA) provider directories are not accurate.
After a quick detour back to the House for a re-vote, Congress passed the GOP tax bill along party lines with no incident. It now awaits President Trump’s signature. With its passage, it has become quite clear that the tax bill poses some hefty questions as to the fate of government health programs in 2018 and beyond. The questions begin with the timing of the President’s signature itself. Reportedly, President Trump will not sign the bill until January, 2018, in order to circumvent budgetary rules that would force a 2% cut to Medicare in 2018. The PAYGO statute applies to the year after a bill is signed, meaning the 2% annual sequester to Medicare programs would not come into effect until 2019, well after midterm elections.