The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a stopgap government funding bill that delays $4 billion in cuts to Medicaid disproportionate-share hospital payments until Dec. 20.
The bill also includes short-term funding extensions for several healthcare priorities such as Medicaid block grant funding to the U.S. territories, community health centers and the community behavioral health clinic demonstration program. The House passed the continuing resolution on a largely party-line vote.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he would support a clean continuing resolution to fund the government through Dec. 20.
"The House needs to send us a short-term funding bill, which the Senate can pass and which the president will sign," McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
The healthcare funding and delays to DSH cuts will only last until December, when lawmakers will again try to reach an agreement to fund the government. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) urged lawmakers to reach a permanent deal before 2020.
The continuing resolution "that we are passing today is evidence of a dysfunctional U.S. Senate that refused to act in the appropriations process," Hoyer told reporters Tuesday.
The one-month deal gives lawmakers more time to negotiate funding for several healthcare programs. Longer-term funding extensions would cost billions of dollars, and lawmakers have not yet agreed on how to pay for them. Legislation to address surprise billing and lower drug prices are potential offsets, but bills on both issues have stalled so far.
Several prominent hospital trade groups voiced relief at the delay for DSH cuts, but still are pushing for a longer-term assurance.
"This temporary delay is a step in the right direction toward ensuring hospitals and health systems can continue to care for the most vulnerable in our communities. Until a more sustainable, permanent solution is reached, we continue to urge that these cuts be delayed for at least two fiscal years," a spokesperson for the American Hospital Association said.
The Federation of American Hospitals called the short-term DSH cut delay "the right thing to do," but also asked for a long-term fix.
Senate Finance Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he expects to further delay DSH payment cuts in December, but that he 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.
"Since we agree on everything else, and I agree with them on 90% of the stuff they want, why are they fighting us on just getting a little bit of information they have already accumulated?" Grassley told Modern Healthcare.
Several lawmakers have pushed for reforms to how Medicaid DSH payments are distributed, but Grassley said the efforts are dead this year.
Beth Feldpush, senior vice president of policy and advocacy at America's Essential Hospitals, said the group is grateful for the short-term delay of payment cuts and favors the House Energy and Commerce Committee's approach for a longer-term fix. The committee passed a bill that would repeal DSH cuts for fiscal 2020 and 2021 and lower the reductions scheduled for fiscal 2022 from $8 billion to $4 billion.
"The bipartisan House Energy and Commerce plan to repeal more than two years' worth of cuts is the best solution we have right now, and we call on the full House and Senate to pass it," Feldpush said.