Congress Picks up Pace as June turns to July

The House is back in session for the final week of June and is expected to meet throughout July. During the week of June 29, the House will vote on H.R. 1425, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act. The bill will most likely pass on party lines and is not going to be taken up by the Senate. The legislation would expand the ACA’s tax credits, pressure states to expand Medicaid programs with the promise of more federal funding, and cap individual premiums at 8.5% of their income. The bill also allows immigrants living in the US under DACA to get access to subsidized insurance plans.

Beginning the week of July 6, the House will begin marking up Fiscal Year 2021 appropriation bills. The Labor-HHS bill, which sets the funding level for the SORH, FLEX and other rural health programs, is included in the HHS funding bill and is scheduled for markup July 7. The full House is expected to consider the bills on the floor the weeks of July 20 and July 27. The Senate will most likely not begin the markup process until September. Expect Congress to pass a continuing resolution through the November election.

Also beginning the week of July 6, the Senate is expected to begin negotiations with the White House on the next COVID-legislative package. During June, the Senate HELP Committee held a telehealth hearing that looked into which of the 30-plus temporary telehealth changes should be made permanent post-COVID-19 emergency. HELP Chairman Alexander (R-TN) called for Medicare to permanently lift restrictions on telehealth coverage for rural areas. Look for the next Senate COVID legislative package to include language making some of the temporary rural provisions permanent.

Rural Health-Related Bills Introduced in June

Rep. Sherrill (D-NJ) and Hern (R-OK) introduced the “protect Telehealth Access Act.” H.R. 7391 seeks to eliminate a requirement that someone receiving telehealth services must be located in a rural area or health professional shortage area, and that the person may only get telehealth services at home and in limited circumstances. Here is the press release.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) introduced H.R.7338, the bill would amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to allow HHS to waive requirements of telehealth services under Medicare. The bill would allow seniors to utilize CARES-related telehealth provisions after the national emergency period expires.

Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) introduced S.3998 to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to simplify payments for telehealth services furnished by Federally Qualified Health Centers or Rural Health Clinics under Medicare.

Rep. Guest (R-MS) introduced H.R.7208 to amend the Small Business Act to include hospitals serving rural areas or areas of persistent poverty in the Paycheck Protection Program.

Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) introduced S.3917 to establish a home-based telemental health care demonstration program for purposes of increasing mental health services in rural medically underserved populations.

Rep. Norma Torres (D-NM) introduced H.R.7190 to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for the establishment of a virtual health pilot program to facilitate utilization of remote patient monitoring technology to maintain or expand access to health care services for individuals in rural areas during the COVID-19 emergency period. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) introduced companion legislation in the Senate, S. 3951.