CONGRESS IS TRYING TO FIND ITS NEW NORMAL
- The House Prepares for a Month of Committee Activity. Last week, the House of Representatives put out its revised calendar for the remainder of the year. The congressional schedule has been unpredictable up to this point, with leadership making frequent last-minute decisions to call members back to Washington. The published schedule indicates that Congress is starting to settle into its new normal. According to the calendar, the entire month of June is designated for committee activity. This suggests that members will not be back in Washington legislating, but instead holding remote committee hearings. Get ready for some extensive oversight of the government’s COVID-19 response. With the chamber’s adoption of proxy voting, members will have no reason to return to Washington until work begins in earnest on the next relief package, something that is looking more and more like a July exercise.
- Negotiations Will Continue into the Summer. Congress will take up the next bill when the Senate and the White House decide they want a deal. Among the items on the table is a ban on surprise billing. The Administration is reportedly considering pushing a proposal that would prohibit healthcare providers from balance billing patients for out-of-network care, but not establish a method to resolve payment disputes between insurers and providers. Disagreement over how to resolve such disputes was a leading reason why surprise billing legislation stalled in Congress. When Congress was considering the issue throughout 2019 and into 2020, it was closely tied to the healthcare extenders (temporary programs that need their funding reauthorized on a regular basis). The various proposals that were introduced to end surprise billing and resolve payment disputes would have saved between 18 and 25 billion dollars to be used to fund the extenders. But with the extenders now funded until November, an outright ban on surprise billing may be more workable. However, it is not clear if a sweeping prohibition will gain support in Congress at a time when lawmakers are focused on economic relief, and providers are reeling to respond to and from the effects of the pandemic.
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