The House passed legislation Tuesday night on a 384-38 vote delaying a 2% across-the-board cut to Medicare payments for the rest of the year. The bill is now headed to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.
The bill is a big win for hospitals and providers.
"Extending the moratorium through the end of this year provides much-needed relief for essential hospitals, which continue to face heavy financial pressure from their front-line response to COVID-19," Beth Feldpush, senior vice president of policy and advocacy, America's Essential Hospitals, said in a statement. "The sequester would weaken the ability of our hospitals to care for the communities of color that have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic."
The Medicare cuts originally took effect in 2013 as part of a package of automatic and annual budget cuts known as a sequester. Congress paused the sequester cuts to Medicare last year in response to the pandemic and its effect on providers' finances, but that pause was scheduled to end this month.
Hospitals and providers argue the pandemic continues to hurt them financially, particularly in rural and underserved communities.
Providers still face a larger 4% Medicare cut that could be triggered by passage of the recent COVID-19 relief bill. Because the $1.9 trillion relief package raises the deficit, Medicare and other programs will face funding cuts next year under a federal law called PAYGO.
Democrats tried to waive PAYGO through the bill that delays the sequester cuts but that was blocked by Senate Republicans. During a floor speech Tuesday night, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), said Congress' work "is not done" and he intends to introduce a separate bill aimed at forestalling the additional Medicare cuts. Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) countered, saying that Democrats "dismissed" the fact the "bailout bill" will end up leading to $36 billion in Medicare cuts.
American Hospital Association President and CEO Rick Pollack in a statement said the group will continue to "advocate for more overall funding for the Provider Relief Fund, relief for hospitals and health systems with Medicare accelerated payments" and for hospital and health system priorities to be included in the upcoming infrastructure legislative package and Congressional action by the end of the year on Medicare cuts due to the effects of PAYGO."