NOSORH Written Language Introduced in the House:
During January, Reps. Sam Graves (R-MO) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) introduced a comprehensive bill addressing rural hospital payments that included an entire section written by NOSORH reauthorizing the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Grant Program (Flex). The bipartisan NOSORH-endorsed bill, H.R. 6400, contains a bevy of NOSORH friendly language centered around the Flex reauthorization section. The Graves press release includes quotes from NOSORH. 

While the Graves-Huffman bill will likely not pass Congress as a stand-alone for cost reasons, a number of the bill provisions could be advanced in other health care packages by Congress this year and beyond. NOSORH will work to include the Flex reauthorization language in such a package. NOSORH is also in the process of meeting with House and Senate offices to shop the Flex reauthorization language as a stand-alone bill. In addition to the Flex language, the Graves-Huffman bill seeks to eliminate the Medicare sequester for rural hospitals and make Medicare telehealth service enhancements permanent for RHCs and FQHCs, among other provisions. 

Appropriations Update:
The current Continuing Resolution (CR) funding the federal government runs through February 18, 2022. Congressional leaders will decide between a shorter-term CR (likely) or pass an omnibus bill. Included in either package is a possible COVID-relief package containing some healthcare provisions, although the window is getting tight for a substantive package. Under a CR, funding for the SORH grant program would remain at $12,500,000. Were Congress to pass an omnibus, House and Senate Appropriators would have to decide between the $13,000,000 for SORHs passed by the House or $12,500,000 put forth by the Senate. 

Regardless of which path Congress takes on funding, President Biden is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on March 1, 2022. At or around March 1, the Biden Administration will also deliver to Congress their budget request for FY 2023. These events will kick off the appropriations cycle for FY ’23, in which NOSORH will actively participate. 

NOSORH Resources for the NRHA Policy Institute:
NOSORH is preparing to participate in NRHA’s virtual Policy Institute being held February 8-10. A webinar to help SORH and their partners prepare for hill visits was recorded on January 24 and is available for playback. Fact sheets on SORH appropriation and Flex reauthorization will be ready by February 4. On February 11 at 3 PM ET, SORH are invited to join a members meeting and NRHA State Office Council update; we’re looking forward to hearing about your efforts.