(Oct. 8, 2021) – The new federal fiscal year started last Friday, but Congress has yet to determine the outcome of most of President Joe Biden's legislative agenda. Democrats on Capitol Hill remain divided on how to proceed on the Senate-passed $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill. Progressives who generally set the agenda in the House of Representatives want an agreement with Senate moderates on the BBB bill before they will agree to pass the moderate-preferred infrastructure bill, while moderates want to bring the price tag of the BBB bill down to roughly $1.5 trillion. Added to this, Congress must approve of a debt ceiling increase by Oct. 19 and a new annual budget by Dec. 3. With only three votes to spare in the House and none in the Senate, Democratic leadership in both chambers are walking a shaky legislative tightrope.
While we continue to follow this situation closely and are in constant contact with the Kansas Congressional Delegation, most of the Kansas Hospital Association's federal priorities are not contained within this particular legislative drama. The 340B program integrity remains at the top of the list in our discussions with elected officials and other provider groups. As we work through these discussions, we are learning that if the Department of Health and Human Services were to have appropriate staffing levels and enforcement tools, the current 340B statute would provide them with enough authority to make the program work as it is intended.
We also are closely following the situation regarding Provider Relief Fund reporting requirements. We are pleased HHS is allowing providers a 60-day grace period for reporting their initial receipts from the PRF by extending the effective reporting deadline to Nov. 30. However, we remain concerned this does not adequately take into account the situations of many providers who were in the process of spending their PRF funds on COVID-related capital projects when the spending deadline hit on June 30. While we pushed Congress to address this in the stopgap budget measure passed last week funding the government until Dec. 3, the political reality is this bill does not contain anything that changes administrative policy. We encourage hospitals to explore submitting a PRF Phase 4 application as these funds may be used to cover COVID-related revenue loss and patient care expenses, including certain capital expenses. The application portal for Phase 4 opened on Sept. 29 and will remain open until 11:59 p.m. EDT on Oct. 26. More information on this can be found here.
Additionally, we remain concerned the public health emergency will not have passed before the 2 percent Medicare sequestration holiday expires. KHA worked with Congress and other provider groups earlier this year to extend the sequestration holiday from March 2021 to the end of the year. However, it appears the end of the public health emergency is nowhere in sight. As Congress moves toward unwinding its current budgetary dilemmas, we will make sure that extending the Medicare sequestration holiday remains part of the larger discussion.
As always, thank you for your advocacy support on these important issues. Please don't hesitate to reach out to our team if we can assist you.