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Lymphedema Treatment Act
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Congress Advances Lymphedema Treatment Act and Passes End of Year Spending & Tax Measure

The House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 3, The Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which included two provisions important to WOCN members.  H.R. 3 would allow the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices with manufacturers. This new drug pricing system would provide the federal government with significant cost savings.  H.R. 3 proposes to use the savings to increase a number of Medicare benefits including adding vision, dental, and hearing benefits to Part B.  

In addition, H.R. 3 would add Medicare coverage for compression therapy of lymphedema.  The language included in H.R. 3 is based on the WOCN-supported Lymphedema Treatment Act and is a huge win for beneficiaries.  House passage of this legislation is an important step, but is only part of the solution as the Senate still needs to act on these provisions before they can be sent to the President.  As this point, the Senate has no plans to take up H.R. 3 as they are pursing separate legislation to address prescription drug pricing. However, by passing one chamber of Congress we are hopeful that the Lymphedema Treatment Act will be moved separately in the Senate and then sent to the President.  

H.R. 3 also included language from the WOCN-supported Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act.  This provision would waive the co-insurance payment for colorectal cancer screening tests that become treatment when polyps are discovered.  Under current law, seniors covered by Medicare are eligible for colorectal cancer screenings without cost sharing. However, if a physician takes further preventive action – like removing a polyp – during the screening, the procedure is billed as a “treatment” rather than a “screening,” and the cost (anywhere between $100 and $300) is passed on to the patient.  H.R. 3 would fix this discrepancy, allowing Medicare to cover those costs and making it easier for seniors to get screened.

FY 2020 Spending and Tax Agreement Reached

The President has signed an end of the year legislative package which includes FY 2020 spending and tax provisions.  The spending bill (H.R. 1865) includes domestic priorities and international assistance appropriations included in a minibus of eight fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills.  The minibus reflects conference agreements for the following spending bills: Labor-Health and Human Services-Education, Agriculture-Rural Development-Food and Drug Administration, Energy and Water Development, Interior-Environment, Legislative Branch, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, State-Foreign Operations, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development.

H.R. 1865 includes funding for Labor/HHS/Ed FY 2020 totaling $184.9 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $4.9 billion over the 2019 enacted level and $43 billion over the President’s 2020 budget request.  The bill includes a total of $94.9 billion for HHS, an increase of $4.4 billion above the 2019 enacted level and $16.8 billion above the President’s budget request. Highlights include:

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) – The bill provides a total of $41.7 billion for NIH, an increase of $2.6 billion above the 2019 enacted level and $7.5 billion above the President’s budget request.

  • National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) – Provides a $6.121 million increase ($169.113 million total).

  • Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs – Provides a $10.5 million increase ($259.972 million total).  This includes a $5.5 million increase to existing Title VIII programs and an additional $5 million to a new line item – Nurse Practitioner Optional Fellowship Program. 

  • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) – The bill includes $7.3 billion for HRSA, which is $177 million above the 2019 enacted level.

  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) – The bill provides $338 million for AHRQ, flat funding from FY 2019.

The spending and tax measure also permanently repeals the 2.3% medical device tax that was created in the Affordable Care Act and has been delayed by Congress several times over the last decade.  WOCN supported the repeal of this tax which would have resulted in higher costs to consumers for medically-necessary supplies.

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