President's Perspective – Federal Advocacy Efforts Continue on Medicare Sequestration
(April 2, 2021) – Aug. 2 marks the 10-year anniversary of the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011. The significance of this legislation is tied to the policy provision that created a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives, referred to as the Super Committee. This committee's directive was to reach an agreement to reduce federal spending by $1.2 trillion. Absent of an agreement by the Super Committee on the spending cuts, an across-the-board reduction, known as the sequester, would ensue. I anticipate you are well aware of the failures of the Super Committee to reach an agreement and the subsequent implementation of the two percent reduction in Medicare payments to providers. While the sequester was paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress is now considering whether the sequester moratorium should be extended.
The Kansas Hospital Association has been clear for months in all of our communications with Congress that the continuation of the current moratorium on sequestration is absolutely necessary for the financial health of Kansas' hospitals. The American Rescue Plan did not extend the moratorium, an oversight we believe was a major weakness of the bill. Two weeks ago, KHA sent a letter to the Kansas Congressional Delegation asking them to support legislation to continue the moratorium.
Last week, the Senate discussed H.R. 1686, and its prospects in the upper chamber looked dim without some kind of deal between Democrats and Republicans. A new bipartisan bill – S. 748, cosponsored by Senator Jerry Moran – was introduced early in the week, and it paid for the proposed moratorium extension by extending sequestration for another year until the end of 2031. While negotiations were tense, congressional leaders on both sides finally agreed to put the text of S. 748 into H.R. 1686 and voted on it immediately. The legislation passed on a 90-2 vote, with both Senator Moran and Senator Roger Marshall voting in favor of it. The Senate-passed version also includes a fix to allow rural health clinics opened in 2020 to be reimbursed at levels equivalent to those opened before 2020.
The House, however, has no votes scheduled until April 13, so the Senate amendment to H.R. 1686 will not be considered until then. At this point, it seems likely this vote will be one of the first votes of the upcoming spring session and should pass by a wide margin. While sequestration technically resumes on April 1, nobody in Washington believes it will remain in place for long. Indeed, H.R. 1686 as amended is written to backdate the moratorium to include any day between April 1 and whenever this bill is signed into law, likely April 14 or 15.
In the interim, please consider contacting your members of the Kansas Congressional Delegation and express your support for the extension of the moratorium. Your participation in our advocacy efforts are greatly appreciated!