In the last few weeks, the U.S. House of Representatives has voted on key issues and advanced numerous bills through the legislative process. Several of these bills include policy priorities for the American College of Surgeons (ACS). The House of Representatives adjourned at the end of July, heading into an in-district work period for the month of August. In contrast, the Senate will remain in session for most of August to continue voting on nominations, legislation, and prepare for the confirmation vote of a new Supreme Court Justice.
Congress follows a set calendar consisting of legislative days in Washington, DC, and in-district work periods throughout the year. The legislative calendar is posted on Congress.gov. One of the most common misconceptions about a congressional in-district work period is that it is a vacation for the members of Congress. While in the district, members of Congress are often attending events or meeting with constituents. Typically, the month of July involves a flurry of activity as Congress tries to complete as much legislative work as possible before heading home to meet with constituents. This July was true to form.
In July, the House passed three key health care proposals—the Children’s Hospital GME (Graduate Medical Education) Support Reauthorization Act of 2018 (CHGME), H.R. 5385; the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA), H.R. 1676; and the ASC (Ambulatory Surgical Center) Payment Transparency Act of 2018, H.R. 6138. The ACS supports these bills and will continue to monitor their progress as they make their through the Senate.
Details about the bills
CHGME: The CHGME program provides funding to children’s hospitals to assist with the training of pediatric physicians. This legislation funds the CHGME program at $325 million a year for five years. In April 2018, the ACS joined a coalition of other health care organizations in signing on to a support letter for CHGME funding.
PCHETA: This legislation establishes palliative care and hospice education centers to improve the training of interdisciplinary health professionals by developing and disseminating curricula relating to palliative care.
ASC Transparency Act: The ASC Transparency Act would allow for the ASCs to have representation when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is reviewing hospital outpatient payment rates for Medicare Part B services by adding an ASC representative to the Advisory Panel on Hospital Outpatient Payment. This legislation also requires CMS to be more transparent when establishing the ASC procedure list.
The College will work with the Senate to urge passage of the aforementioned legislative priorities. Additionally, when the House and Senate return in September, they will be looking to approve a budget for fiscal year 2019, pass legislation to reauthorize the Pandemic and All-Hazards and Preparedness Act, and reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of opioid-related legislation. Overall, Congress is expected to be in session a handful of days before Election Day on November 6, 2018, leaving limited time to accomplish these goals before the “lame duck” part of the 115th Congress begins.
For questions on ACS-related pending legislation or advocacy opportunities, contact the ACS Division of Advocacy and Health Policy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-337-2701.