Biden’s Healthcare Agenda Hits Speed Bumps

One Biden policy that is going forward is the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

Today, it’s all about slowing down. We’ll touch on a few Biden Administration healthcare policies that are stalling or getting pushback.

First, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a temporary rule requiring all companies with 100 or more employees to either require their employees to get vaccinated, or require unvaccinated workers to take weekly COVID tests. An appeals court made up of three Republican-appointed judges temporarily stopped officials from implementing the rule. Last week, after the Biden Administration made its pitch to the appeals court, the court elected to keep the block on the rule.

In practice, it froze the vaccine mandate in its tracks.

That’s not the last word, however: the Administration has said that they’ve only just begun to fight, and it is expected that the Supreme Court will have to weigh in at some point.

We’ve also talked for some time about the pushback that the Biden Administration is getting over the policies put forward in the No Surprises Act regulations. The main point of contention is the Administration’s policy of making a plan’s median in-network rate serve as the de facto reimbursement benchmark for surprise out-of-network claims. Let’s call it the qualifying payment amount, or QPA, policy, as that’s the terminology in the regulation.

At the beginning of November, the Texas Medical Association launched a lawsuit against the Administration over the QPA policy.

At about the same time, 160 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to the Administration asking that the policy be reversed. Numerous provider associations voiced their support for the letter.

For its part, the Administration insists that it knows exactly what it’s doing with the QPA policy. The policy, an administration official said last week, was, quote, “not an accident.” “It was a deliberate decision,” the official said. The comment period for the regulation ends the first week in December.

One Biden policy that is going forward is the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. The bill was passed by the House earlier this month, and the President signed it on Monday.

So, what healthcare-related items are in the infrastructure bill?

The answer is, not much. There is funding in the bill that expands broadband Internet, which will help those in rural areas with accessing healthcare through telehealth.

That’s about it for the infrastructure package, but there’s quite a bit more healthcare funding in the more expensive Build Back Better social spending package that Congress is expected to act on later this month. The Build Back Better bill includes money that would reduce healthcare premiums for people who buy insurance on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange marketplaces, and it would expand Medicaid for an additional four million people. The bill would also extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and would offer hearing coverage through Medicare.

The Build Back Better package, of course, will not be as easy to pass as the infrastructure bill ‒ which itself was no walk in the park. We’ll have more on the healthcare provisions that are in that Build Back Better package as that bill progresses.

Programming Note: Listen to Matthew Albright’s legislative updates Monday on Monitor Mondays and sponsored by Zelis.

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Matthew Albright

Matthew Albright is the chief legislative affairs officer at Zelis Healthcare. Previously, Albright was senior manager at CAQH CORE, and earlier, he was the acting deputy director of the Office of E-Health and Services for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

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