(Jan. 22, 2021) – As the 117th Session of Congress begins ramping up and newly inaugurated President Joe Biden takes the executive branch's reigns, the Kansas Hospital Association will begin to advocate for our legislative priorities for the upcoming year. While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic colors every current issue in health care, the scope of challenges faced by our state's hospitals will not end when vaccines provide for herd immunity. Below is a list of both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related federal advocacy items identified by KHA. We look forward to addressing these items with our Kansas Congressional Delegation throughout the year.
Fifth COVID-19 Relief Bill: There are several matters needing to be addressed in this package that were either overlooked or emerged because of provisions in previous relief bills, including:
- Increasing funding and support for vaccine distribution. It's essential to ensure any vaccine allocation plan does not disadvantage Kansas.
- Continuing flexibility on the Provider Relief Funds. Hospitals are under extraordinary financial pressure as they expend significant resources to treat COVID-19 patients.
- Providing adequate liability protections to health care providers. Kansas doctors and hospitals have worked tirelessly under unique circumstances for almost a year now, and providers should be allowed to do their job without fear of litigation except in instances of malfeasance or gross neglect.
- Grandfathering Rural Health Clinics created in 2020 so they are not subject to an arbitrary per-visit cap.
Kansas Medicaid Provider Assessment Approval: The Kansas Legislature passed bills in 2019 and 2020 enabling the state to modernize its provider assessment program. The assessment is paid by all non-Critical Access Hospitals, collected by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, matched with federal funds, and distributed to all providers who see Medicaid patients. However, CMS has been slow to approve Kansas' program and technical changes.
340B Drug Reimbursement Program: For more than two years, drug makers have been very aggressive in their attempts to dismantle the 340B Drug Reimbursement Program, a program designed to help low-income Americans pay for their prescription drugs without using any government funding. This program is of tremendous importance to hospitals providing care to many low-income and Medicaid-eligible individuals, and Congress should support the original intent of the 340B program.
Sequestration and Disproportional Share Hospital Cuts: While sequestration and DSH cuts historically descend from different bills, both loom as potentially devastating if they go forward unchanged. Currently, sequestration cuts are delayed until March 31, 2021, while DSH cuts are delayed until Oct. 1, 2023. The two percent cut to Medicare reimbursements that are part of sequestration makes the financial situation difficult for hospitals serving a high proportion of Medicare patients. The DSH cuts hurt hospitals serving a high proportion of low-income and Medicaid-eligible individuals. Addressing both of these looming cuts provides funding stability to Kansas hospitals already hurting from COVID-related financial strains.
While there are likely to be other new issues arise, these are some of the matters KHA will advocate for during the 117th Congress. We look forward to working with the Kansas Congressional Delegation to resolve many of these items. KHA appreciates your support in our advocacy efforts as we focus to strengthen our hospital and health care system.