Congressional Lovefest Propels Medicare Changes Forward


“Thank you. No, no. Thank YOU.”

House Republicans and Democrats told each other how much they appreciated working together before passing two Medicare bills last week.

Lots of “thank you’s” in the Way and Means Committee across the partisan divide.

The committee vote was set against the backdrop of the rancor in the other chamber over the larger health-care legislation.

Although the two scenarios aren’t comparable, House committee members continually remarked about the cooperation as they considered the bills.

“I want to thank all of the members on both sides of the aisle for their hard work and leadership on these solutions,” Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said.

"I am happy that you and I were able to work together in a bipartisan manner to bring together a number of important bills to improve Medicare,” Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the ranking Democrat, said.

“I want to thank all my colleagues for reaching across the aisle to advance these important Medicare policies,” Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), who chairs the Health Subcommittee, said. He added that he hoped this would continue with other Medicare bills.

And so on.

What would the legislation do?

A bunch of things.

The half dozen provisions in one of the bills (H.R. 3178) would include allowing payments for home delivery of infusion services until a new program for these services begins in 2021. It would ease the ability of dialysis providers to seek accreditation so beneficiaries with chronic kidney disease living in rural communities can more easily access treatments, among other provisions.

The other bill (H.R. 3168) would extend the life and expand the authority of managed care plans for beneficiaries with special needs. These Medicare Advantage plans are called special needs plans, known as SNPs (pronounced "snips").

H.R. 3168 is not without its skeptics. Witnesses during the hearing on the legislation last month questioned whether these insurance plans really can boast of having better health outcomes than other Medicare Advantage plans.

But that skepticism didn’t seem to deter the Democrats and both bills passed unanimously.

Look to the Energy and Commerce Committee to pursue Medicare issues later this week. We’ll see whether the lovefest continues.

Read my full article here.

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