Two Legislative Developments and Their Significance to ASCs

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Two Legislative Developments and Their Significance to ASCs

ASC Quality Act Introduced in the House and Bipartisan Budget Act enacted

In the August 2019 issue of ASC Focus, the column “Passing Bills” covered factors that contribute to the pace at which Congress considers and passes legislation. Since the publication of that article, there have been two major developments on the legislative front. First, Representatives John Larson (D-CT-1) and Devin Nunes (R-CA-22) introduced the ASC Quality and Access Act on September 17. This legislation is similar to the version introduced during the last Congress and would build upon ASCA’s recent accomplishments to promote reimbursement parity between ASCs and hospital outpatient departments (HOPD) and ensure an ASC voice on a panel that influences the outpatient payment system.

Earlier this year, a House Committee approved provisions of the ASC Payment Transparency Act, which is a scaled down version of the ASC Quality and Access Act and includes only the advisory panel and procedure list provisions. Under these two legislative approaches ASCA is working to make meaningful changes for your ASC and patients you serve.

The second major development, although not directly related the two bills above, is important to keep in mind when considering the overall policy landscape and likelihood for either chamber of Congress to move legislation that would change healthcare or other federal programs. This development was the enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 on August 2. This legislation addresses, among other provisions, two of the significant issues that can cause a Congressional log-jam and were covered in the August “Passing Bills” article.

First, the bill raises the discretionary spending caps, which, had they not been lifted or spending levels not been reduced, would have resulted in an automatic spending reduction of $125 billion across military and domestic programs. Raising the spending caps avoids that spending reduction and of clears the way for the appropriations process where Congress allocates funding for federal programs and agencies.

Second, the bill suspends the federal borrowing limit for two years, ensuring that the government does not default on its obligations. Additionally, underlying this bill was an agreement that members of each party would avoid including “poison pills,” partisan provisions that often stymie the process, in appropriations bills, which increases the likelihood that the appropriations process moves quickly and stops a government shutdown. If the bill name Bipartisan Budget Act sounds familiar, that is because Congress has used this title for various bills over the years. Some of these bills have included a wide range of provisions outside of the budget process. For example, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 included Congress’s effort to control the growth of spending in the outpatient space by creating special rules for off-campus HOPDs. Overall, enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 is a narrow effort that is mostly focused on resolving budgetary issues. It is major breakthrough setting the stage for Congress to move through the appropriations process in a timely manner, and increasing the chance for it to move on to nonbudget related issues, like healthcare and related bills like the ASC Quality and Access Act.

For more information, write Kara Newbury.

Steve Selde, ASCA’s assistant director of government and legislative affairs, reported for this article.