Home Health & Hospice

Provider advocates speak out against legislation that would extend Medicare sequestration

Homecare Insider, May 11, 2015

Trade associations across the care continuum joined forces last week to voice their concerns to the House Ways and Means Committee about proposed legislation that would result in wholesale Medicare reimbursement cuts for providers.

These pay reductions would come by way of an extension to the Medicare sequester to pay for costs associated with reauthorizing the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, a non-Medicare entity. As it stands, the trade bill would extend the Medicare sequester into 2024 with a 0.25% sequestration adjustment on all Medicare provider payments, according to the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC).
“Medicare providers have already absorbed hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts in recent years,” NAHC stated on its Legislative Action Network website. “The use of Medicare funds for non-Medicare purposes is an unwise and alarming precedent.” 
Although committees in both the House and Senate have passed the trade bill with the Medicare cuts, NAHC is holding out hope that stakeholders can sway Congress members to remove the sequestration extension provision before the full House and Senate vote on the legislation. The trade association reports that House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin-1), has said he would consider alternatives to the Medicare cuts to offset the cost of the trade legislation. 
To that end, NAHC, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Health Care Association met Monday with majority staff of the House Ways and Means Committee to make their case against the use of Medicare funds toward the trade bill. This coalition previously sent a letter to all members of Congress articulating their concerns.
"Medicare should not be used as a piggy bank for other government spending, no matter how important that spending may be,” Val J. Halamandaris, president of NAHC, wrote in a statement. “Congress owes Medicare beneficiaries a special trust to manage Medicare funds in the best interests of those beneficiaries."
Although the timeline for Congress’ consideration of the trade bill isn’t certain, NAHC says the full Senate could vote on it sometime this week or next. Consequently, the trade association is urging its home health and hospice constituents to voice their worries about the bill’s current form to their Congressional representatives.