Congress in 2020 will focus on securing the healthcare policy wins that slipped through lawmakers’ fingertips at the end of 2019: cracking down on surprise medical bills and high drug costs.
Senators at the forefront of both those efforts will give up their committee gavels at the end of the 116th Congress, so 2020 will be pivotal in cementing their healthcare legacies. Senate health committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is retiring and Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) will leave his chairmanship after serving the six-year maximum.
Although lawmakers left drug pricing and surprise billing out of their year-end spending deal, appropriators extended funding for several Medicare and Medicaid programs through May 22, which sets up another potential vehicle for legislative action.
Tom Nickels, executive vice president for government relations at the American Hospital Association, said he is hopeful for a longer-term resolution on delaying Medicaid payment cuts to disproportionate-share hospitals in the spring. But that will likely have to come with some trade-offs. Grassley wants hospitals to agree to disclose all public funding they receive to the CMS and state Medicaid programs, including non-DSH supplemental payments at the facility level. He argued the disclosure should not be controversial, as hospitals already have the information.
Nickels said the calls for greater transparency on non-DSH supplemental payments are “perfectly reasonable,” adding that there’s bipartisan, bicameral agreement that the cuts should not take effect in 2020.
“The stars are aligned,” Nickels said.