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Congress passes a number of health care provisions in the current budget

December 15, 2014
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy 

Congress narrowly passed a $1.1 trillion federal budget that will fund most of the federal government through September 2015. Below is a summary of key health care provisions in the bill.

  • Within the bill, Congress expressed concern that there had not been adequate opportunity for public comment on bundling of surgical codes in the final rule of the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. The budget bill says that the appropriate methodology has not been tested to ensure that patient care and patient access are not negatively impacted and ponderous administrative burdens placed on providers. It asks the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to reconsider that fee schedule provision.
  • The budget includes $5.4 billion of emergency funding to prepare for and respond to the Ebola outbreak.
  • The National Institutes of Health will receive $30.3 billion (an increase of $150 million), including $283 million for Ebola-related research.
  • CMS receives no increase in funding over last year ($3.6 billion).
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will receive money to combat prescription drug abuse around the country. Twenty million dollars has been set for prevention of drug abuse and another $12 million has been included under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for the states to expand treatment services for drug addiction. This funding is also expected to support activities to establish or expand prescription drug monitoring databases of physicians writing prescriptions for opiates and pharmacists filling prescriptions.
  • The bill looks at the Medicare Recovery Audit Contractors (RAC) and how audits may be reducing patient access to care. The bill directs CMS to provide education to providers on error reduction. It also asks the agency to develop procedures to reduce backlogs of claims and hearings and asks CMS to provide education to RAC contractors to improve the accuracy of their audits.
  • The bill urges the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to decertify electronic health records products that block the sharing of information and to certify only those products that meet current meaningful use program standards.

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