Congress, despite a second shutdown in less than a month, was able to pass a number of financial extenders to fund key health care programs.
The bipartisan spending bill (
The spending bill and continuing resolution to fund the government through March 23 includes $6 billion to fund treatment for opioid addiction and other mental health issues, $2 billion in additional funding for the National Institutes of Health, and 4 additional years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The additional CHIP funding extends the program for a total of 10 years.
The funding bill also made a technical correction to the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) track of the Medicare Quality Payment Program. It removes Part B drug reimbursement from the MIPS payment adjustment, so any positive or negative change to physician payments based on the MIPS score will only be applied to physician fee schedule payments.
The bill also repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel created by the Affordable Care Act that would have the power to slash Medicare spending under certain budget circumstances. That board was never convened.
The funding legislation also accelerates closure of the Medicare Part D “donut hole,” the coverage gap in which beneficiaries must pay 100% of medication costs prior to entering catastrophic coverage.
Just over $7 billion was provided for community health centers and Medicare’s therapy caps were repealed.
While the funding bill was written in the Senate with bipartisan input and received bipartisan support, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) held up votes over objections to the more than $1 trillion it will add to the nation’s debt, as well as for the fact that there was no opportunity to introduce and vote on amendments, leading to an hours-long government shutdown.
There also were concerns about two issues that could have derailed the vote in the House. Democrats wanted to add language to address immigrants brought to this nation illegally as children, while some Republicans did not want to increase the federal debt. However, there were enough votes to pass the funding legislation.