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  • Washington Highlights

    House Ways and Means Committee Passes Hospital Payment Reforms

    Len Marquez, Senior Director, Government Relations

    The House Ways and Means Committee May 24 passed by voice vote, “The Helping Hospitals Improve Patient Care Act of 2016” (H.R. 5273), legislation that would incorporate consideration of socioeconomic status (SES) in the Medicare Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP), and provide a narrow Sec. 603 exemption for “mid-build” off-campus hospital outpatient departments (HOPDs) at the time of enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, among other provisions [see Washington Highlights, May 20].

    AAMC President and CEO Darrell Kirch, M.D., issued a statement applauding the committee “for passing this important legislation that will help the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals provide care to all who need it.”

    Dr. Kirch further highlighted the AAMC’s longstanding leadership in promoting the importance of risk-adjusting for the socioeconomic status of patients in measures used to determine penalties under the HRRP stating, “Medical schools and teaching hospitals treat a larger proportion of our nation’s most medically complex and vulnerable patients, and the provisions in the hospital package passed by the committee will make sure that they are not unfairly penalized for factors outside their control.”

    Health Subcommittee Chair Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) opened the markup stating, “As Members of Congress we talk a lot about removing paperwork burdens and allowing providers to concentrate on what matters most – delivering patient care.” He continued, “This bill will help hospitals attain the revenue they anticipated when they made the decision to invest in new construction projects. It’s just common sense to recognize the reality of business practices. No one likes to think of health care as a business, but hospitals have to keep the lights on to treat patients, just like any other business.”

    Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady (R-Texas) praised the committee’s commitment to taking “quick action” on legislation that “will promote greater access, increase choices, and improve the quality of health care.”

    Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-Mich.) echoed similar sentiments and said the HOPD fix specifically “brings fairness to those hospitals.”

    Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) commended the committee’s bipartisan work to improve patient care stating, “Hospitals all across the country were facing tremendous uncertainty after the Bipartisan Budget Act. I’m glad this bill recognizes the important role that hospitals play, not just as centers of care, but as economic drivers and catalysts for community health. This bill strengthens the HRRP program, to not only focus on reducing preventable readmissions but to ensure that hospitals that treat particularly complex and vulnerable patients are not unfairly penalized.”

    Finally, Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) asked that, moving forward, the chairman continue to consider hospital payment issues including the “Advancing Medical Resident Training in Community Hospitals Act of 2016” (H.R. 4732). The legislation would allow hospitals that have inadvertently, and often unknowingly, established medical resident training programs with artificially low resident caps and/or per-resident-amounts (PRA), to build residency training programs and receive the appropriate Medicare-support [see Washington Highlights, March 18].