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News & Press: Legislative Alerts

Congress Approves Sweeping End-of-Year Legislation

Friday, January 10, 2020   (0 Comments)
by Patrick Cooney, The Federal Group

Just before leaving for the holiday break Congress moved swiftly to pass a broad package totaling $1.4 trillion in new spending that will fund the federal government for fiscal year 2020 and includes significant policy changes in health care.  House lawmakers passed H.R.1865 on Dec. 17th and the Senate passed it on December 20th.  President Trump signed the bill into law on December 20th.

Below is a summary of key items including changes to health care that AABC members may be interested in:


Health Care Policy

The measure would permanently repeal three taxes imposed under the Affordable Care Act:

  • The “Cadillac” tax on high-cost employer health plans, which is scheduled to take effect in 2022. The tax was originally set to take effect in 2018 and apply to employer-sponsored health plans that in that year cost more than $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. The rate is set at 40% of coverage costs that exceed those thresholds, which will be adjusted annually for inflation.
  • A 2.3% tax on medical devices, which is currently suspended through Dec. 31, 2019. The tax applies to devices such as hip implants and pacemakers sold by a manufacturer, producer, or importer.
  • An annual fee imposed on health insurance providers.


Health Care Funding Highlights for FY2020

Funding for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The bill includes $94.4 billion in base discretionary funding for the Department of HHS, an increase of $4.4 billion.

  • National Institutes of Health – $41.68 billion, an increase of $2.6 billion, or 6.7 percent, above FY2019.
  • Ending the HIV Epidemic – $291 million, an increase of $241 million, to support the President’s HIV initiative and other high priority HIV efforts to reduce the number of new HIV infections by 90 percent in 10 years.
  • Mental Health –  $3.9 billion for mental health programs, an increase of $328 million. 
  • Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) – $5.8 billion, an increase of $550 million. This increase will help states improve the quality of child care programs, including increasing provider rates and ensuring health and safety standards are met, and expand working families’ access to quality, affordable child care.
  • Head Start – $10.6 billion, an increase of $550 million, to help all Head Start programs keep up with costs, recruit and retain highly qualified staff, maintain enrollment, and provide high quality early childhood services for children and families. 
  • Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) – $41.3 million, an increase of $2 million. These centers develop and maintain a diverse health care workforce, and broaden the distribution of the health.

 Maternal Health Related Provisions

  • National Health Service Corps. - HRSA is instructed to provide a report no later than 120 days after enactment of this Act on the data collected on maternity care target areas, including the availability and need of maternity care health services in health professional shortage areas (HPSAs), and in the target areas within such HPSAs.
  • Midwife Training - Within the total for Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students, the agreement includes no less than $2,500,000 to educate midwives to address the national shortage of maternity care providers, and specifically to address the lack of diversity in the maternity care workforce.
  • Alliance for Maternal Health Safety Bundles - includes $5 million for implementation of maternal safety bundles in all U.S. States, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, as well as tribal entities.
  • Healthy Start - includes within the total no less than $15 million for the initiative to reduce maternal mortality, allowing Healthy Start grantees to support nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, physician assistants, and other maternal-child advanced practice health professionals within all program sites nationwide.
  • Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRCs) - includes $12 million funding for CDC to continue its technical assistance to existing State MMRCs to build stronger data systems, improve data collection at the State level, and create consistency in data collection.

Congress returned to work this week and is expected to continue working to address the cost of prescription drugs and possible expansion for the Medicare program to cover dental, vision and hearing services.  Congress is also working to resolve “surprise billing” which occurs when services are provided by out-of-network providers, leaving consumers with significant out-of-pocket costs especially for emergency room procedures.


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