The AAMC sent a Dec. 19 letter urging House and Senate leadership to immediately reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for five years, delay the Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) cuts, extend funding for health workforce programs, and rescind the Medicare cuts to hospitals that participate in the 340B Drug Pricing Program.
In the letter, AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, notes, “While we understand the growing list of items Congress must address by the end of the week, the extension of CHIP and various health workforce programs, as well as a delay of the Medicaid DSH cuts are critical, bipartisan priorities that should be extended in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion. If possible, these items should be included in any year end funding bill or continuing resolution.”
The Dec. 21 continuing resolution (CR) that Congress passed failed to fully address these issues [see related story]. The CR includes $2.8 billion in stopgap funding for CHIP, $550 million for community health centers, $65 million for the National Health Service Corps, and $30 million for the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education through March 31. Federal funding for all of these programs expired at the end of September. The bill offsets these, and other provisions, in part through a $750 million cut to the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
The House and Senate both supported a five year extension for CHIP that includes the enhanced federal matching rate for two years, but the chambers have not agreed on how to pay for the program. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) issued a Dec. 21 statement calling for a long-term CHIP extension. They stated, “We share a commitment to extend full funding for CHIP as soon as possible…While the proposed short-term patch offers some funding relief, it falls short of providing families and states the certainty they need. We will be vigilant to ensure this program isn’t subject to repeated short-term fixes and constantly looming deadlines – families across the nation deserve better.”
The CR does not include a delay of the Medicaid DSH cuts or rescind the cuts to 340B hospitals. Oral arguments were held Dec. 21 in the joint lawsuit between the AAMC, American Hospital Hospitals, and America’s Essential Hospitals to prevent the Department of Health and Human Services from reducing Medicare payments for drugs provided by 340B safety net hospitals from average sales prices (ASP) plus 6 percent to ASP minus 22.5 percent [see Washington Highlights, Nov. 17]. The judge indicated he would rule on the case before the cuts are scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1.