President Joe Biden has ratified the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending measure as numerous changes to federal health policy are included in a comprehensive spending measure made public by Congress on Tuesday. These include the easing of Medicare provider pay reductions, resuming Medicare redeterminations, and extending government programs for rural hospitals. As the Friday government funding deadline approaches, lawmakers are scrambling to enact the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending measure as quickly as possible. The funding bill suggests a 2% reduction in the Medicare PAYGO physician pay starting in January 2023, rising to 3.5% in 2024. The current cuts stop the November-proposed 4.5% provider cut. The agreement, which came about as a result of vigorous provider campaigning to stop the planned cuts, was applauded by the American Hospital Association. In accordance with the proposed legislation, Medicaid redeterminations that were put on hold because of the COVID-19 public health emergency will start up again in April 2023. This month, the Robert Wood Johnson foundation discovered that the PHE’s expiration could result in the loss of health insurance for up to 18 million Medicaid beneficiaries. The HHS predicted that up to 15 million people could lose their insurance in August. The Children’s Health Insurance Program’s funding has been extended by lawmakers through the fiscal year 2029.
The law also extends money for the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Grant Program and the Medicare rural hospital program. The COVID-19 pandemic has particularly affected rural hospitals, putting patient access to care in jeopardy as many facilities deal with ongoing constraints. The HHS allocated $60 million in August to improve the workforces in rural healthcare. The CMS also suggested a brand-new classification for rural hospital providers this year. The COVID-19 pandemic’s telehealth flexibilities and hospital at home programs have both been extended for two years under the bill. Other financial measures in the bill deal with mental health programs and make it simpler for physicians to prescribe drugs to treat substance use problems.