The House of Representatives recently passed legislation to fund the government that includes critical updates to the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Programs (MAAPP).
MAAPP loans were vital at the onset of the pandemic, but the program’s short repayment deadlines, high interest rate, and other factors threatened to pile on new financial burdens that could undermine at-risk hospitals and providers as well as patient access to care.
The House’s inclusion of MAAPP updates in their funding bill is welcome news, and Senator Mitch McConnell should help ensure the bill passes in the Senate. However, there are other pertinent health care issues that Congress needs to address this year as well.
In addition to expanding the MAAPP, Congress also allocated $175 million to the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) under the CARES Act to help cover COVID-19-related expenses or revenue losses.
But again, there were implementation problems. Because these funds are subject to taxation, taxpaying Kentucky hospitals, physicians, and other providers that received PRF grants must pay back 21% or more of the emergency relief funding they received in taxes.
Not only does this create a two-tier system in which non-taxpaying providers receive more funding than taxpaying ones, but it again undermines the efficacy of the program and endangers the same providers it purports to benefit. Congress should revisit this issue and eliminate the tax on the PRF while ensuring related expenses remain tax-deductible.
Lawmakers would also be remiss not to address the issue of surprise medical billing. Congress must find a solution that protects patients and does not further destabilize providers’ financial outlooks as we continue the fight against COVID-19.
That means any solution Congress passes should not allow the government or insurance companies to dictate payment rates for providers by using a benchmark rate-setting approach to settle out-of-network billing disputes. Instead, Congress should ensure both insurers and providers can negotiate fair, equitable payment terms.
As the Senate moves forward to pass a funding bill that includes vital MAAPP updates, Senator McConnell and the rest of Kentucky’s Congressional delegation should also work to solve these important issues.