Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Senate passed legislation authored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to prevent substantial payment cuts to Medicare payments to health care providers from taking effect during the COVID-19 public health emergency by a vote of 90 to 2. Without this legislation, hospitals, nursing homes, physicians and other frontline health care providers will face $12.3 billion in Medicare payment cuts over the next nine months, starting April 1st, at a time when these providers desperately need more financial resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The amendment will now be sent to the House of Representatives.
“At a time when our country is relying so heavily on our health care providers to help get us back to normal, we cannot ignore the financial realities they face. Almost half —17 out of 36—of Maine hospitals finished last year with a negative operating margin,” said Senator Collins. “I am pleased that the Senate passed this legislation Senator Shaheen and I authored that will extend the current sequester moratorium until the end of the year. This financial certainty is desperately needed in these uncertain times.”
“New Hampshire’s hospitals, nursing facilities and other health care providers have suffered significant financial losses while responding to this pandemic in the communities they serve. The last thing they need are cuts to federal funding they are relying on, like Medicare reimbursement payments, that are helping them keep the doors open and deal with increased expenses and revenue shortfalls during COVID-19,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m very glad Congress took swift action to pass my bipartisan legislation with Senator Collins that will delay looming Medicare payment cuts that would threaten providers’ ability to operate during these challenging times. I look forward to seeing the House act to pass the Senate bill and send this legislation to President Biden for his signature, so that we can ensure providers can continue their work on the frontlines of this pandemic.”
Since 2013, Medicare spending has been subject to “sequestration,” a process that enacts automatic, across-the-board reductions in Medicare payments to health care providers by up to 2 percent. With health care providers relying on payments from Medicare now more than ever before to help keep their doors open as they provide lifesaving care and treatment to the communities they serve during the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers delayed the Medicare sequester until March 31st, 2021, as part of the government funding legislation passed by Congress and signed into law last December.
Senator Collins has long been a champion of improving access to health care, particularly in rural and underserved areas. Last month, Senator Collins offered an amendment to replenish the Provider Relief Fund by $35 billion to help hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, assisted living providers and others with the increased costs and lost revenue brought on by the pandemic. She secured a provision in the year-end government funding bill that improved payment reductions for specialty physicians. In addition to sponsoring legislation to avert those destabilizing cuts to medical providers that would have harmed patients’ access to health care, Senator Collins sent a letter to Senate leaders in October, urging them to advance legislation to prevent these sharp reductions in payment.
The text of the legislation can be read here.