"The AHA appreciates Congress' effort to restore some access to the 340B program for hospitals that lost eligibility to the program due to COVID-19-related changes to their payer mix," said Aimee Kuhlman, vice president of federal relations for the AHA. "We are pleased that these affected 340B hospitals and their patients will be able to benefit from the program as they continue to weather the financial and operational challenges of the pandemic."
The package will also extend Medicare coverage of telehealth services for 151 days after the end of the public health emergency, allowing beneficiaries to continue accessing care from their homes, at least temporarily.
Under the public health emergency, Medicare has temporarily waived several restrictions on coverage, including a requirement that beneficiaries be at a rural healthcare facility to receive telehealth services. Many of those waivers expire at the end of the public health emergency, which could end as soon as July 15.
The temporary extension will allow Congress more time to study the impacts of expanding telehealth access under Medicare and to decide whether lawmakers want to make those changes permanent. The extension also applies to coverage of audio-only telehealth.
HHS will receive a 12% funding increase under the proposal, including more money for the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and various priorities for lawmakers, including maternal health and the substance use crisis.
Some of the department's funds will be earmarked for a new agency that will focus on accelerating the pace of scientific breakthroughs for cancer and diseases like Alzheimer's, fulfilling a key Biden administration priority. Additional money will go toward modernizing public health data surveillance and public health workforce initiatives.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration would receive $6.5 billion — a $350 million increase. That funding would go toward supporting mental health services and substance use treatment. The Health Resources and Services Administration would receive $9 billion, or a 20% increase in funding. Some of that would go toward workforce programs, including a new loan repayment program for physicians who specialize in pediatrics, and a funding increase for the Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education program.
The package also includes several new grant programs to address maternal health, including $9 million in annual grants intended to spur innovative approaches to improving maternal health outcomes. The HHS funding also creates a $5 million-a-year grant program for medical and nursing schools to train students to care for racial and ethnic minorities. Other grant programs would focus on care integration, vaccine awareness, data collection and care in rural areas. More than $4.7 billion would go toward addressing the nursing shortage.