Appropriations Update: The White House is expected to release a skinny budget on April 2, with the full budget request being submitted to Congress later in the month. The House Appropriations Committee has extended its deadlines for submissions by members for the Labor-HHS spending bill to April 28. For the first time since 2010, the House will allow members to request dedicated-funding projects, also known as “earmarks” for the FY 2022 appropriations process. NOSORH has been asking Congress to increase funding for the State Offices of Rural Health grant program to $15 million for FY 2022.

Biden Signs American Rescue Plan into Law: On March 11, President Biden signed into law a $1.9 trillion COVID-related spending package. The package included $8.5 billion for rural providers through the Health Care Heroes Sustainability Fund (HCHSF). Also included is $500 million for the creation of the Emergency Grants for Rural Health Care program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program is intended to support rural hospitals’ COVID response and telehealth services.

Recently Introduced Rural Health-Related Bills in Congress

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced H.R.1838 to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to improve rural health clinic payments. Here is the press release on the bill which is intended to allow RHCs and CAHs that are “mid-build” or in the process as of March 30, 2021, to be able to apply for grandfathering of their reimbursement rates through a rate-setting year following their opening.

Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) introduced H.R.1885 to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to adjust certain rural health clinic payments under the Medicare program.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) introduced H.R.1887, the Rural Hospital Support Act, to rebase the calculation of payments for sole community hospitals and Medicare-dependent hospitals.

Senator Dick Durbin introduced S.644, the Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act which intends to restore State authority to waive for certain facilities the 35-mile rule for designating critical access hospitals under the Medicare program. The Companion bill in the House, H.R. 1639, was introduced by Rep. Kinzinger (R-IL).

Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) introduced H.R.1332 to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to make permanent certain telehealth flexibilities under the Medicare program related to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Here is the press release to the Telehealth Modernization Act