(Feb. 26, 2021) – This week, I wanted to take time to focus on some of the advocacy work that the Kansas Hospital Association has been doing at the federal level. There are significant changes in leadership in both the White House and the Senate, which poses new challenges and fresh opportunities to solve policy issues. Additionally, we have two new members of Congress, as well as Senator Marshall moving across the hill from the House to the Senate. We have been active in meeting with the Kansas Congressional Delegation and educating them on health care issues Kansas hospitals are facing during this unique time.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have worked with officials on Capitol Hill to target their COVID-19 relief bills toward programs that may help hospitals through the worst of the pandemic and economic fallout. In this effort, we saw many successes: we ensured many hospitals were eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program; confirmed Provider Relief Funds were deposited in a timely manner to all eligible hospitals; and reviewed accounting rules determining how much Provider Relief Funds each hospital would be eligible for remained reasonable.
We also found a resolution to a policy priority we had sought for many years: a new funding model for rural hospitals. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, which concluded the last session of Congress, included the creation of the Rural Emergency Hospital designation, a new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' payment model available to current Critical Access Hospitals and other rural hospitals starting in 2023. I am pleased to report the Kansas Legislature has followed suit and started the process of statutorily defining the REH designation.
However, many challenges still remain. We continue to work with the Kansas Congressional Delegation and CMS on approving changes to the state's provider assessment rate. The outcome of this policy change rests now in the hands of President Joe Biden's new administration. Although the transition and ramp-up periods from November of last year until now have seen tremendous staff turnover, we know officials for Biden's transition team and the president's new CMS staff are aware of its importance to funding Medicaid delivery in Kansas.
Also of great concern not just to us but also to most hospitals around the country is the continuing drug company pressure on hospitals limiting our access to appropriate reimbursements under the 340B Drug Pricing Program. President Biden's nominee to become the next U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, current California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, signed a letter to HHS (along with Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt) just before being nominated in December of last year asking the department to hold drugmakers accountable for their participation in the program. And while it is critical that the current administration change course from the previous administration on 340B, we also continue to support legislative changes to the program to ensure it continues to serve low-income Americans for decades to come. You might be interested in seeing this clip of Senator Jerry Moran questioning Attorney General Becerra Wednesday about 340B, organ transplants and telehealth/broadband.
We have been active in meeting with Kansas Congressional Delegation members and their staff to talk about these issues and to help them not only understand our perspectives but also to view KHA as a resource. The KHA Executive Committee has met via Zoom with the state's members of Congress, and we have had countless conversations with staff as we've worked through these issues, as well as those related to the new COVID relief bill. We are grateful to Representative Sharice Davids and Representative Tracey Mann for signing a Dear Colleague letter to HHS Nominee Becerra backing the 340B program. Also, we thank Senator Jerry Moran and Senator Roger Marshall for working to include more provider relief funds in the Senate's version of the COVID relief bill. While the work under the dome in Topeka often occupies much of our attention, our federal work is ongoing and is producing results for our state's hospitals. Your continued support and engagement in our advocacy efforts are much appreciated and crucial to our success.