The Rundown – December

No Time to Waste! Urge Your Member of Congress to Delay CMS’s 2023 Home Health Rate Cuts

While I usually use the first section to cover federal news, this cannot wait. On October 31, 2022, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a final rule that will reduce Medicare payments for home health services by $635 million in 2023 and approximately $18 billion over the next decade. It was mandated by Congress in 2018 that CMS develop a payment model that would be “budget neutral”, not one that would reduce funding for home health care by over $18 billion.

Following the release of the final rule, HCA along with the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC) re-engaged with the sponsoring offices of The Preserving Access to Home Health Act (S. 4605/H.R. 8581) on refining the legislation to delay CMS from implementing their 2023 home health payment cut for one year, as well as strengthen transparency of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in their rate-setting. Our champions on Capitol Hill are working to substitute this amended language in the negotiations for the year-end package. 

With time running out in the 117th Congress, lawmakers are inching closer to passing a final spending bill to keep the government funded. Home health advocates are pushing hard for a yearlong delay of the 2023 home health payment cut, which would otherwise take effect on January 1, 2023. However, NAHC has informed us that there is significant opposition to delaying these cuts.

We need your help once again and there is no time to spare! 

HCA members sent over 200 emails to members of the Massachusetts delegation urging their support ofS. 4605/H.R. 8581Your continuous outreach resulted in Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern and helped to persuade CMS from backing off their initially proposed 7% rate cut. We must continue our aggressive outreach in order to persuade Congress to include the revised language in the year-end budget!

Helping out is as easy as clicking on the this ACTION ALERT link, filing in your information which will send a pre-written email to your member of Congress urging them to support a year-long delay (2023) of CMS’s proposed home health rate cut and call for added transparency in CMS rate-setting practices.

It is so easy thatmy 6-month-old golden retriever Daisy was able to do it and she got her nose stuck in a peanut butter jar the other day. I will be sending out numerous reminders to reach out to your member of Congress over the next couple of weeks! You will not be able to escape me as I try to get as many people to help us in our mission to stop CMS. We need you and anyone that you know to reach out!

Federal Recap

Now back to the recap. This edition will be lighter than previous editions due to the holiday season. The time between mid-November and the new year is notoriously slow due to the holiday season, but there is still some stuff I would like to update you all on.

Campaign season has officially come to a close! Ralph Warnock won the Georgia run-off election this week, defeating Republican challenger and self-proclaim Texan (his words) Herschel Walker. Warnock’s win gives Democrats a 1 seat majority in the Senate, wrapping up 2 years of 50-50 split in the Senate. Though this may not seem like a large enough margin to matter, it will have a big impact over the next two years. With a 1 vote majority, Democrats can take much more operational control of the Senate, easing the confirmation of contentious nominees, clearing the way for investigations and availing themselves of breathing room on a variety of matters. Democrats will now hold a one-seat advantage on congressional committees that are now evenly split. This will prevent Republicans from being able to block confirmation nominees while in committee if Democrats are able to hold together on a nominee. The Biden Administration will likely use this opportunity to pack the lower courts with Democratic judges. Many judicial nominees only require a one vote majority to be passed through committee and the Senate. Democrats will still be blocked from passing sweeping legislation in the Senate due to the risk of a filibuster by the Republicans.

Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer both announced that they will be stepping down from their position as Speaker of the House and House Majority Leader respectively. Pelosi and Hoyer’s announcement marks the end of the era for the number 1 and 2 in the Democratic party and will usher in a new era in Democratic politics. Democrats moved quickly to fill their leadership vacancies, electing Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8) to be party leader, Massachusetts own Katherine Clark (MA-5) to be minority whip (number 2) and Rep. Pete Aguilar (CA-31), to Jeffries current position of Democratic caucus chairman (number 3). Pelosi and Hoyer both stated that they will still serve in the House the remainder of their terms, which I will imagine will result in them still holding puppet power till they retire. The new leadership will have their hands full in the new year when Republicans take over control of the House. Current Republican Leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) is expected to be elected Speaker of the House in the new session. McCarthy has already signaled that he plans to make the House into a TV spectacle for the next two years. McCarthy has been setting up a the potential for congressional investigation into the Hunter Biden laptop scandal, which will be sure to make great TV.

Look Ahead

The only thing that we will be looking at in December is a potential year-end budget deal to fund the government for the next year. As I wrote before, it is imperative that you use this ACTION ALERT to urge your member of Congress, for some will be the now immensely powerful Katherine Clark, to urge them to support a year-long delay (2023) of CMS’s proposed home health rate cut and call for added transparency in CMS rate-setting practices. Congress could decide to punt negotiations on a 2023 budget by deciding to pass a continuing resolution (CR), that would fund the government at the current levels for a specific amount of additional time. That amount of time could range from additional month to a full year. CR’s have become common practice over the last decade and will likely be used at some point in this process. It is imperative that we ask that they include in any deal to stop CMS from implementing their rate cuts. Please use the ACTION ALERT to do your part. I am happy to help anyone if they would like to reach out to their member in a different way, whether by phone, fax, hell the pony express! Ill take anything. Your voices matter!

Urge Congress to Reject Cuts Hospice Cap

We are also asking that our Hospice members use this ACTION ALERT to urge their member of Congress to reject a major hospice payment cap cut from being included in any end-of-year legislative package that Congress is currently negotiating. As is often the case with large, year-end spending bills, there are many programs and policies Congress wants to “stuff in” to an omnibus funding package before the close of the year. In order to pay for all these priorities, lawmakers must identify “offsets” to fund them.

A significant reduction of the hospice aggregate cap, as has been recommended by MedPAC in the past, is being considered for one such “offset”. We need your help as hospice leaders to tell Congress that cutting the cap in a major and rushed way is bad policy.

It is imperative that we all do our part to make sure that there are no major hospice payment cap cut included in the end-of-year budget!! 

State Recap/Look Ahead

Just like at the federal level, this edition will be lighter than previous editions due to the holiday season. To quickly cover what has happened since the last rundown, Maura Healey has begun her transition process, naming members of her transition team. This marks what will be a long transition period for the Healey team. Healey is in a rare position as opposed to previous Governor-elects; Healey currently holds high office as the current Massachusetts Attorney General (AG). Healey will not only have to manage taking the reins from Governor Baker, but Healey will also have to manage transitioning her AG office over to AG-elect Andrea Campbell. Many legislators that I have spoken with have pointed out that this is no easy task and will likely result in a slower than usual transition period.

HCA is currently drafting several pieces that we will be sharing with the Healey transition team that clearly states our priorities for her time as Governor. We have also been in constant contact with our state legislative champions to advocate to the Governor-elects team on our behalf.

I will be sure to keep you up to date on any on-going developments as it pertains to the transition from Governor Baker to Governor-elect Healey.

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