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Health Care Largely ‘Wins’ in Latest Budget Deal, Analysts, Medical Societies Say

Originally published by Healio on February 12, 2018. Written by Janel Miller.

Health care policy analysts and medical societies are applauding the budget agreement signed last week by President Donald Trump, citing financial support in several critical areas.

“The recent compromise budget bill is largely a win for physicians and health care more broadly,” Philip A. Verhoef, PhD, MD, FAAP, FACP, assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics, University of Chicago, told Healio Family Medicine.

The plan provides the Childrens’ Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, with a total of 10 years of funding, which is 5 years longer than a previous agreement; NIH with $1 billion in funding each year for the next 2 years; states with funding to combat the opioid crisis, renovate and expand Veterans’ Administration hospitals and clinics; and 2 years of funding for community health centers and National Health Service Corps Program funding for 2 years, according to Verhoef.

Another health care policy expert agreed that the bill, which received bipartisan support, is a meaningful one.

“Tucked into the continuing resolution is the most significant piece of health care legislation to pass since the 21st Century Cures Act was enacted in December 2016,” Pari Mody, associate of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, told Healio Family Medicine. “The bill includes several changes that will impact health care providers, including many that providers should count as wins.”

She said this includes the retroactive, 2-year delay of the Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payment reduction that went into effect at the end of September, the aforementioned CHIP funding extension, and many more components.

“The [continuing resolution] also includes purported technical changes to the Quality Payment Program, which were backed by physician associations. Significantly, beginning in 2019, this section makes clear that the Merit-based Incentive Payment (MIPS) score adjustment is limited to ‘covered professional services,’ and excludes Part B drug payments,” she said in the interview. “Other wins in the bill include a temporary, transitional payment system for home infusion therapy services, expansion of telehealth under the Medicare program, funding for community health centers, and permanent repeal of the Medicare therapy cap.”

Both Verhoef and Mody had several caveats regarding the bill.

“Although there is a lot for providers to be happy about … it’s not all good news,” Mody said. “[The resolution] decreases the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule conversion factor for 2019 and reduces funding to the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which was established under the Affordable Care Act to provide sustained, mandatory public health funding.”

Robert Greenwald, JD, clinical professor of law and faculty director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School, told Healio Family Medicine, “Now that an agreement has been reached, certain vital health programs are safe for the time being. The Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers over 9 million children, is funded until 2027 and Community Health Centers, which serve the health needs of our nation’s most vulnerable, are funded for the next two years. Going forward, we must continue to prioritize programs that promote and secure the health of U.S individuals and families.”

 

Read the rest of the article at healio.com.

 

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