Medicare deregulation bills introduced by House Republicans
Republicans on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday introduced seven bills to roll back Medicare regulations on hospitals.
The bills touch on prior authorizations and quality measures, among other issues. Outgoing Committee Chair Kevin Brady (R-Texas) told Modern Healthcare the proposals represented the next stage of their "Red Tape Relief" effort even though Republicans will not steer the committee's legislative priorities next year.
The panel's current ranking Democratic member, Richard Neal of Massachusetts, who will become chair in January, said committee Democrats will take a look at the bills. He added that "we'll have to wait and see" on whether they would move the effort forward.
"We're in the middle of discussing all that right now," Neal said.
The Red Tape Relief project was spearheaded by Brady and outgoing Health Subcommittee Chair Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), who lost his re-election bid in November. Hospitals have closely watched the effort, and Erik Rasmussen of the American Hospital Association said he is hopeful the work will continue.
"Republicans in the House will still be important because they can work on the administration on this," Rasmussen said.
The newly released proposals include a platform where Medicare hospitals and clinicians can communicate directly with the CMS on payment systems and administrative burden; a proposed mandate to make sure Medicare's quality measures are "meaningful" for treatment and care and minimally burdensome; a bill to encourage Medicare Advantage plans to share risk with physicians; and a measure to alert physicians, hospitals and patients about insurers' prior authorization requirements.
Another bill would repeal the requirement for physicians at critical-access hospitals to certify that a patient "may reasonably be expected to be discharged or transferred to a hospital within 96 hours after admission."
Rep. Mike Thompson, a California Democrat and longtime Ways and Means member, said the panel's Democrats will "absolutely" keep going with the review of red tape. But outgoing Health Subcommittee ranking Democratic member Sandy Levin of Michigan, who is retiring at the end of 2018, said he doesn't want to make a prediction given the partisan divide that has recently exemplified committee work.
"I don't want to speak too much for the next Congress," Levin said. "I think what's going to happen is there will be a hard look at everything. People don't realize how the committee really hasn't had back and forth in any meaningful sense. It's really been, too much, two committees: the majority and the minority."
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