Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 Includes Significant Health Care Improvements, and Congress Has More Work to Do

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 8, 2018
Contact: Ashley Ridlon
aridlon@bpcaction.org

 

Washington, D.C. – BPC Action supports the significant health care improvements included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, and commends congressional leaders for including in its legislation policies to:

  • Support rural health care delivery under the Medicare program, including extensions of special Medicare payments to certain small and low-volume hospitals and rural ambulance services; and of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) program which plays a vital role in bolstering the health care workforce for rural and other underserved areas.

  • Provide a ten-year extension of the bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program. The long-term extension provides the level of certainty eligible families need to provide for their health care and for states to operate stable and efficient programs.

  • Provide two-year funding for Community Health Centers (CHC), which provide community-based, comprehensive health services to medically underserved populations, and serve one in every 13 Americans. BPC has recommended multi-year funding for CHIP, CHCs, and the NHSC.

  • Devote $6 billion to fight the national opioid epidemic and treat mental health issues. BPC has published recommendations on how to prioritize these critically-needed resources.

  • Provide multi-year funding for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, as in the bipartisan Strong Families Act of 2017. This program provides grants to states, territories, and tribal entities to develop and implement evidence-based, voluntary programs to improve maternal and child health, prevent child abuse, and promote child development and school readiness.

  • Improve care for patients with complex needs, including provisions of the bipartisan Senate-passed Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017. BPC has proposed and testified before Congress on several of these, including:

    • Allowing Medicare Advantage greater flexibility for providing health-related services to improve or maintain the health or overall function of chronically ill individuals;

    • Providing Medicare beneficiaries with greater incentives to participate in high-value health care while preserving patients’ choices of health care providers;

    • Permanently extending the Medicare Advantage Special Needs Program (SNP), to support millions of vulnerable Americans including those who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid and those living with chronic conditions;

    • Expanding the successful Independence at Home demonstration program to help seniors access quality, team-based care in the home; and

    • Expanding access to telehealth services under Medicare Advantage, and in certain accountable care organizations (ACOs) that bear risk for quality and cost savings, as well as for dialysis and stroke patients.

We call on Congress to also advance provisions that would:

  • Make health insurance more affordable for individuals not benefiting under the current subsidy system. Providing reinsurance funds and increasing states’ flexibility to design lower-cost plans would begin to address the needs of these individuals, help to stabilize individual market premiums in the short-term and pave the way for longer-term bipartisan solutions.

  • Promote competition and lower costs of prescription drugs. For example, the bipartisan Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act of 2016 aims to prevent drug companies from unnecessarily delaying entry by generic competitors by denying access to drug samples or denying their participation in shared risk evaluation and mitigation strategies (REMS) processes to assure safe use of the drug. This policy could not only save money but also save lives and is consistent with the administration’s goals of lowering drug prices.

As Congress proceeds to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 and works toward a resolution on spending legislation leading up to the new March 23 deadline, we call on their support for all of these important provisions to improve health care in America. Congress must also face the fiscal realities of unprecedented deficits stemming from this legislation and the recently-enacted tax bill, and must come together to set the country on a more sustainable path.