The Rundown – January

Federal

Apologies for the delay with the January edition of “The Rundown”, but if the federal government could delay swearing in their members, then I can be late with my report. To put it mildly, things got a little crazy since November at the federal level.

Federal Budget

To put it mildly, things got a little crazy since November at the federal level. Let’s start off with the least complicated stuff that happened. In December, the government passed a massive $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill that would fund the government through September 2023. The spending package includes language that would increase transparency of the payment rate-setting method employed by CMS. We were disappointed that the package does not include language that would suspend the entirety of the behavioral adjustment cut to the CY 2023 home health payment in CMS’s CY 2023 Final Rule. Additional provisions that were included that are noteworthy include:

  • Two-year extension of Medicare telehealth provisions
  • Two-year delay in implementing the Medicare tele-mental health in-person requirement.
  • Paygo waived 2 years (was a 4% Medicare cuts across the board for 2023 and 2024)
  • Rural add on extended at 1% for 1 year for frontier counties
  • Medicaid Money Follows the Person program and spousal improvement protections extended to 2027
  • Modification of the 2023 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule that will increase payments by 2.5% in 2023 and 1.25% in 2024.

Speaker Race

Now to when things got crazy. Like a high school student trying to pass their driving test, it took House Republicans more than just a couple tries to elect a Speaker of the House. For about 4 days the public witness what House Republicans called “debating”, but what I would call the manifestation of a twitter comment section. A Speaker being named was mainly being held up by members of the House Freedom Caucus, who are generally considered the most conservative and farthest-right bloc of the Republican party. The Freedom had an extensive list of demands, such as, restore any member’s ability to make a “Motion to Vacate the Chair” and force a vote on removing the Speaker, and Decline to raise debt ceiling without a plan to cap spending and balance the federal budget in 10 years. Finally, late on Thursday night a final agreement was struck between the outliers and Republican leadership to garner their support and to elect a Rep. McCarthy as Speaker of the House and officially swear in the 117th Congress.

Now that everyone has been sworn in, the 117th Congress will see the Republicans in control of the House and the Democrats with a slim hold on the Senate. This will result in a lot of fanfare, twitter feuds, but very little actual legislative bills passed. As part of the agreement with the Freedom Caucus, McCarthy agreed that the House would not pass any budget that would increase spending and that they would look to reduce spending on any spending that is not defense related. This leaves the prospect of Congress passing any federal legislation requiring CMS to delay or suspend their rate cuts unlikely.  

State Update

New Year, new government! This January, Maura Healey was sworn in as the 73rd Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Healey is the first women to serve as Governor of Massachusetts and the nation’s first openly lesbian governor. Healey, previously the states Attorneys General since 2014, is a moderate Democrat with strong union ties. Healey received and endorsement from multiple union groups, including SEIU1199, who represents over 115,000 health care, higher education, public sector, and building service workers in Massachusetts. During her transition period HCA wrote a memo to Healey’s transition team detailing our legislative priorities for her time as governor.

January also marks the beginning of the 193rd Session of the Massachusetts State Legislature. HCA has been in close contact with state legislative champions to have our key bills refiled by the filing deadline (January 20th). We will be refiling both the Licensure, and Rate Setting bills. HCA will also be holding a Home Care 101 seminar on January 7th with members of the Enough Pay to Stay Coalition. During the seminar, HCA and the EPTS will educate state staffers on the ins and outs of the home care industry and the vital role that home care workers play in Massachusetts’ health care system!

We would also like to set up state legislature visits with agencies. If an agency is willing to have their state representative/senator visit their office/operation, please email me at hcollins@thinkhomecare.org, and I will help to set up the visits.  

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