The last few years have been rough when it comes to Congressional bipartisanship, with the two parties fighting each other tooth and nail over the most basic legislation. Yet the other day I witnessed a rare moment of comity as the House Ways and Means Committee approved two health-care bills with universal support.
The first bill, H.R. 5659, would allow patients with end-stage renal disease to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans, which they’re currently forbidden to do. Opening up access to Medicare Advantage would improve patient care and care coordination, Franklin Maddux, the chairman of Kidney Care Partners, a national kidney care advocacy organization, said in a statement. Maddux also said the move would help lower Medicare costs.
The second bill, H.R. 5713, would provide temporary regulatory relief to long-term care hospitals, specifically from what’s known as the 25 percent rule. Under the current rule, long-term care hospitals can’t receive full reimbursements if more than 25 percent of their Medicare patients come from one acute-care hospital. The bill would increase the Medicare patient threshold to 50 for nine months, from Oct. 1 through June 30, 2017.
Certain types of long-term care hospitals would also be temporarily exempted from having to abide by so-called site neutral payment policies, which require Medicare to pay the same rate for services provided in different locations.
A quick fraud provision was also tucked into H.R. 5713, which would allow the HHS secretary to block Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Plan reimbursement to newly enrolled providers and suppliers operating in locations under temporary enrollment moratoriums. The Affordable Care Act gave CMS the authority to temporarily stop Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP enrollment, including entire categories of providers and suppliers, if it determines it’s necessary to stop fraud and abuse.
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