Home health providers are one step closer to getting a continued suspension of Medicare sequestration payment reductions.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1868 by a 246-175 vote on Friday. The bill, originally introduced earlier this month by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), pauses automatic spending cuts to Medicare and other programs for an additional nine months.
Since 2014, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been cutting Medicare reimbursements to home health providers by 2%, as directed by Congress. Under the law, payments that exceed Medicare’s cap must be returned to CMS.
Last year, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act halted the automatic 2% cut to all Medicare providers. This temporary moratorium was extended through March 2021 — and scheduled to restart on April 1 if nothing else changes.
In general, the postponement of Medicare sequestration payment reductions enabled home health providers to have the resources to provide care during the COVID-19 emergency while staying afloat financially.
With this in mind, the passage of H.R. 1868 has drawn support from organizations such as the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare (PQHH) and the Partnership for Medicaid Home-Based Care (PMHC).
In addition to helping weather the COVID-19 storm, the pause on sequestration also aided home health providers during the financial shift to the Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM), according to PQHH executive director Joanne Cunningham.
“Given the continued challenges created by the pandemic and the significant PDGM payment cut that took effect last year, sequestration relief is a vital force of stability that the entire health care sector, including home health needs,” Cunningham said in a statement. “We thank House lawmakers for passing this much-needed bill and urge the Senate to promptly pass this bill to secure continued stability for home health providers — and the millions of Medicare patients we serve.”
Aside from delaying a 2% cut to Medicare, H.R. 1868 also dispenses with statutory pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) budget enforcement measures. The PAYGO rule requires new legislation not to raise the federal budget deficit or lower the surplus
In addition to H.R. 1868, a bill that addresses the 2% sequestration cut has been introduced in the Senate. The Medicare Sequester Relief Act — S. 748 — was introduced last week by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).
Currently, S. 748 doesn’t address the PAYGO cuts.
“Many front-line health care providers … have incurred significant expenses and face serious declines in revenue over the course of the pandemic,” Sen. Shaheen said in a statement. “These providers are relying on federal funding like Medicare reimbursement payments to help grapple with the overwhelming health and financial challenges created by this pandemic. For many providers, the looming Medicare payment cuts would pose a further threat to their ability to stay afloat and serve communities during a time when they are most needed.”
PQHH urges the Senate to quickly take up and pass H.R. 1868.