The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health today held a hearing on 12 health care bills, including one that would impact the Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital program. 

The AHA-supported Patient Access Protection Act (H.R. 3022) would repeal the $44 billion in Medicaid DSH reductions mandated for fiscal years 2020-2025 under the Affordable Care Act. The program provides financial assistance to hospitals serving a disproportionate number of low-income patients to ensure Medicaid and uninsured patients have access to health care services. 

“Congress mandated reductions to the Medicaid DSH program in the [ACA], reasoning that hospitals would have less uncompensated care as health insurance coverage increased,” AHA noted in a letter yesterday to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. “Unfortunately, the projected coverage levels were not realized, and the gains made under the ACA may be reversing. Consequently the need for the Medicaid DSH payments is still vital for the hospitals that rely on the program.” 

Testifying at the hearing, Vidant Health CEO Michael Waldrum said the Greenville-N.C.-based health system and other disproportionate share hospitals depend on the program “to offset the financial losses we sustain caring for our nation’s most vulnerable people, who often are the most complex and costliest patients due to their socioeconomic challenges.” 

Among other bills, the committee discussed the AHA-supported Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act  (H. R. 1767), bipartisan legislation that would renew and expand a demonstration program that provides treatment for mental illnesses and substance use disorders through community-based clinics. 

Also testifying at the hearing were representatives from Shasta Community Health Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, JDRF, the Medicare Rights Center, and a parent advocacy network, as well as a health care attorney.

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