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.

Notably, the House bill has several important government healthcare provisions and a slew of Medicare Advantage (MA) proposals that have been on the back burner for the past year. Some highlights:

  • The bill includes a section that will delay the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) authority to terminate contracts for MA plans failing to achieve minimum quality ratings. This authority is already delayed for a year under the 21st Century Cures Act, however, this new bill would extend this delay for a decade, providing an indefinite bailout for these plans.
  • Congress finally addresses the extension of Special Needs Plans (SNPs), providing for a permanent reauthorization. Though SNPs have strong bipartisan support, the industry began to worry as Congress remained silent about reauthorization and CMS’ announcement that contracts would be void for 2019 without action. The permanent reauthorization is a welcome announcement from Congress.
  • The bill incorporates the majority of the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act, a bill that contains some significant new policies for MA plans and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). The bill contains some major new benefits for MA plans, including the expansion of MA Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) to all 50 states and allowing for telehealth services to be built into MA bids.
  • The bill finally provides for a two-year extension of community health centers, providing security to many centers that in the past few weeks were forced to prepare for possible closures and layoffs.
  • One section further delays the implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) payment policies.
  • Last but not least, the bill addresses funding for many of the remaining Medicare extenders.





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