Policy Institute a success! Throughout February, NOSORH and various State Offices participated in virtual meetings with their Congressional delegations. The meetings were used to advocate for increased funding for SORH and the reauthorization of the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility (Flex) Grant program. The Flex language is included in Reps. Sam Graves (R-MO) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) comprehensive bill addressing rural hospital payments. The bipartisan NOSORH-endorsed bill, H.R. 6400, contains a bevy of NOSORH-friendly language centered around the Flex reauthorization section. NOSORH is currently advocating for the Senate to introduce similar Flex language.

The House and Senate begin March with a new landscape. For the first time in years, foreign policy is front and center in D.C. The war in Ukraine will shift congressional focus away from domestic issues in the short term, but could also unintentionally grease the wheels for more bipartisan cooperation on domestic issues like health care.

March 11 looms as the deadline to either extend FY 21 funding or pass an Omnibus FY 22 spending bill that would fund the government through September 30, 2022. It is looking increasingly likely that Congress will use the March 11 deadline to include $6.4 billion in relief funding to Ukraine. For all intents, this makes the March 11 omnibus a must-pass bill and narrows the scope of healthcare items which will move. Telehealth flexibilities through the end of 2022 are seen as a likely candidate. Additional Provider relief from COVID, enhanced ACA tax credits, and drug pricing are probably a long shot to be included. Were Congress to pass an omnibus, House and Senate Appropriators will have to decide between the $13,000,000 for the State Office of Rural Health grant program passed by the House or $12,500,000 put forth by the Senate. In the past, appropriators have sided with the Senate number.

On March 1, President Biden will give the State of the Union address before Congress. The State of the Union address typically ushers in the upcoming fiscal year budget request. However with negotiations on a FY 22 omnibus still ongoing, the Biden Administration is now expected to release their full FY 23 budget later in March. Regardless, NOSORH continues to meet with Congressional members in support of increased FY 23 funding for the SORH grant program.