The mounting bipartisan push to block or delay the CMS' planned $1.6 billion in Medicare cuts to 340B hospitals before the end of the year has the attention of congressional leaders.
Bipartisan lawmakers who oppose the CMS rule are in a race against time to stall the cuts, which are slated to start Jan. 1, but they're increasingly optimistic that a delay could happen in the end-of-the-year deal or as a stand-alone bill early in the new year.
House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders are in talks with Reps. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) on a path forward for their bill either as part of the end-of-the-year spending deal or as a stand-alone bill on track for passage early next year, according to a McKinley aide.
In the upper chamber, talks are up in the air, but an aide said senators are considering a potential one-year delay and a moratorium on new hospitals from entering the 340B program pending altered transparency and reporting requirements on the hospitals.
As of Monday, more than 132 House lawmakers from both parties have signed onto the bipartisan bill by McKinley and Thompson that would essentially block the rule.
Last week, a powerful group of bipartisan senators led by John Thune, a leading Republican from South Dakota, asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to use the end-of-year spending package to stall the CMS rule.
The issue has proved to be a key priority for lawmakers from rural states whose hospitals have high stakes for the program.
Thune and his co-signatories on the letter—who include Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) — said they are willing to step up oversight and transparency within the program. But they staunchly oppose allowing the CMS changes from taking imminent effect.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America told Modern Healthcare earlier this month that it supports the rule and doesn't want it delayed or overturned. But according to lobbyists they have ramped back their opposition and are pressing lawmakers to include transparency measures with any package that would delay the rule.
Apart from potential Hill action, hospital groups with stakes in 340B are also awaiting the Dec. 21 hearing on the injunction on the rule that they filed against HHS. A ruling is expected before Jan. 1.