Beyond Obamacare: Congress Takes on Many Medicare Bills

Congress moved beyond considering the Affordable Care Act (ACA). From potential changes to the Medicare Advantage (MA) program to necessary extensions of already existing Medicare programs, Congress had a busy working week moving the healthcare agenda.


Following the announcement there would not be a vote on Graham-Cassidy, the Senate unanimously passed the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017. The bill, which was advanced by the Senate Finance Committee in May, contains some significant new policies for MA and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). Most importantly, the bill would also permanently reauthorize Special Needs Plans (SNPs). The bill would expand telehealth services in MA and allow for plans to build supplemental benefits into the offerings. The bill also calls for the expansion of the MA Value-Based Insurance Design (MA-VBID) model demo to all states.

With the passing of the bill in the Senate, the bill must now make it to a vote in the House. It is suspected the CHRONIC Care Act has better than a 50% chance of passing the House should it actually make it to the floor.


The House Ways & Means Committee announced plans to mark up the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act, which calls for a repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The Medicare Trustees Report indicates IPAB may be triggered in 2021. Should IPAB be triggered, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Congress will be called on to make cuts to the Medicare program with MA specifically mentioned as potential cuts in the statute.


After missing the key September 30 deadline to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), both the House and Senate are making process in advancing their respective bills. The House Energy and Commerce Committee unveiled its legislation yesterday and is set to mark up the legislation today. The Senate advanced its version this morning. Both bills call for a five-year reauthorization of the program and a reduction in the 23 percent ACA “bump” in 2020. The House and Senate bills have differences, however, which will need to be hashed out before eventual passage.


The House passed several Medicare Extenders in the six-month reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The extenders include the teaching health center GME program, the Indian Health Service (IHS) Special Diabetes Program, and a demo allowing patients with weakened immune systems to receive in-home care.




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