Senator Chuck Grassley and Senator Joni Ernst continue to work in a bipartisan manner on issues important to UnityPoint Health. A few recent efforts (so recent that official summaries are still pending) are highlighted below:
Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (S. 1362) – Senator Grassley has championed this issue by reintroducing this legislation to encourage pharmacists to offer health care services such as health and wellness screenings, immunizations and diabetes management by authorizing Medicare payments for those services where pharmacists are already licensed under state law to provide them. Many states already allow pharmacists to provide these services but there currently is no way for pharmacists to receive Medicare reimbursement for providing them. Companion legislation (H.R. 2759) has been introduced in the House of Representatives.
Accelerating Kids’ Access to Care Act (S. 1544) – Senator Grassley introduced this bipartisan legislation to help families access life-saving care for children with complex medical conditions and is a follow up to the Advancing Care for Exceptional Kids Act that was signed into law in 2019. This legislation further facilitates access to care by requiring state Medicaid programs to establish a process through which qualifying out-of-state providers may enroll as participating providers without undergoing additional screening requirements. Companion legislation, H.R. 3089, has been introduced in the House of Representatives.
Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act (S. 1810)– Senator Ernst has again cosponsored this legislation reintroduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). This modifies the Conrad 30 Waiver program, which incentivizes qualified foreign physicians to serve in underserved communities. UnityPoint Health has been actively advocating for further flexibilities for our immigrant physicians and supports this legislation.
Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act (S. 1988)– To ensure rural health providers and other underserved communities will be able to continue operating and treating patients, Senator Ernst cosponsored legislation by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) to make permanent current telehealth flexibilities. This proposal would:
- Allow payment-parity for audio-only health services for clinically appropriate appointments.
- Permanently waive the geographic restriction allowing patients to be treated from their homes.
- Permanently allow rural health clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers to serve as distance sites for providing telehealth services.
- Lift the restrictions on “store and forward” technologies for telehealth.
- Allow Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) to directly bill for telehealth services.
Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act of 2021 (S. 2069) – Sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senator Ernst has cosponsored this effort to expand high-quality mental health and addiction services nationwide by giving every state the opportunity to fully fund the creation of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics in their communities as part of health care. This bill now only expands the Medicaid certified community behavioral health clinic demonstration program but also authorizes funding for additional grants to certified community behavioral health clinics. Several of our community mental health centers already have this designation, but sustainable funding is needed.
Rural Emergency Hospital Program Letter sent to CMS Administrator – In the June 10 letter, Senator Grassley and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) called on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to ensure a timely and stakeholder-driven implementation of the new and voluntary Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) Medicare payment designation. As former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Grassley secured a rural emergency hospital designation into law last year. REH is an opinion for hospitals to preserve beneficiary access to emergency medical care in rural areas when they can no longer support a fully operational inpatient hospital. The policy creates a new, voluntary Medicare payment designation that allows either a Critical Access Hospital (CAH) or a small, rural hospital with less than 50 beds to convert to an REH. UnityPoint Health has been supportive of Senator Grassley’s efforts to facilitate a menu of health care access opinions in rural communities.
For addition information on federal legislative, policy and regulatory priorities please contact Cathy Simmons, government and external affairs executive director or Stephanie Collingwood, government and external affairs specialist.