Washington, D.C. – By overwhelming, bipartisan votes, Congress passed legislation authored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) that will prevent Medicare payment cuts to health care providers from taking effect during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Without this legislation, hospitals, nursing homes, physicians, and other frontline health care providers would have faced a two percent cut in Medicare payments over the next nine months, at a time when these providers desperately need more financial resources to fight the pandemic. The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 90-2 and passed the House by a vote of 384 to 38. It now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“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 Congress passed our bipartisan legislation that will extend the moratorium preventing payment cuts to hospitals, physicians, home health providers, and others. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Shaheen to support health care providers as we respond to this public health and economic crisis.”
“Our health care providers have been on the frontlines of this pandemic, working tirelessly to provide urgently needed treatment and care for patients, vaccinate our communities and so much more. Medicare reimbursement payments are helping providers pay for operating expenses and start to recover from revenue shortfalls, which have surged over the past year as a result of COVID-19. Now is not the time to make payment cuts to health care providers when we are still experiencing a global health crisis,” said Senator Shaheen. “That’s why I introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Collins that would delay these looming Medicare payment cuts from taking effect. I’m glad Congress got the job done and is delivering this bill to the President’s desk. I urge President Biden to move swiftly and sign this bill into law to ensure our providers continue to receive crucial support they need to care for our communities during this crisis.”
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. However, with COVID-19 continuing to persist across the nation, health care providers are facing continued declines in revenue that could jeopardize their operations unless the moratorium on these payment cuts under sequestration is kept in place.
Senator Collins has long been a champion of improving access to health care, particularly in rural and underserved areas. In February, 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.
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