Week in Washington is brought to you by Michael Cohen, PhD. Tune in each week to read the latest on healthcare policy and get a glimpse of what’s on the horizon.
Week in Washington
This week a number of bills were introduced to tackle the potential return of sequestration for Medicare. There are two separate sequestration issues.
- Absent an act of Congress, the sequestration hiatus will expire at the end of this month (March 31st). If Congress does not act, this would mean that sequestration would increase from 0% to 2%.
- Given the recently passed American Rescue Plan, absent an act of Congress, additional sequestration would be required. CBO estimates that the additional sequestration would result in a sequestration of 4%. (i.e., 2% higher than it normally is). Current rules would not allow Medicare sequestration to exceed 4%.
- The House is expected to vote on the measure that would extend the suspension of sequestration until the end of the year as well as eliminate the effects of the American Rescue Plan in the next week or so, but it may take some time for the Senate to decide on the matter. Ultimately since Congress has until the end of the year to deal with the additional sequestration, it may take a while to settle.
HHS Secretary Confirmed
The Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra to be HHS Secretary today (with a close vote of 50-49). Many key HHS/CMS political positions remain unfilled.
Medicaid Work Requirements
The Biden Administration began revoking previously approved Medicaid waivers involving work rules for Arkansas and Georgia. While no work requirements are currently in effect, some states intend to pursue legal means of enforcing. Consequently, it may take a while before the waivers
Regional variances in COVID have begun again, with some states seeing increases while others decrease. Overall hospitalization rates decreased about 7.5% last week.
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