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Committee Continues Efforts to Cut Red Tape in Medicare Program

April 13, 2018

This week, the House Ways and Means Committee held a roundtable discussion with hospital leaders to identify ways lawmakers can provide regulatory relief in the Medicare program. This roundtable follows the Committee’s ongoing work to identify with key stakeholders in the health care industry how we can remove regulatory burdens to further improve care for patients.

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) said at the start of the discussion:

“We think there are big opportunities here to improve patient care and reduce health care costs by essentially subtracting regulations that don’t improve health care, that get in the way of coordinated care, that actually drive up health care costs. We think there are good, smart ideas on how to do this, and we think you’re the ones who can best guide us on how we eliminate some of that red tape and regulation that frankly don’t help us provide better care.” 

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, added:

“I think our time is going to be best spent not litigating in the past on what a disaster it is. … What we’re trying to do is discern then between one person’s patient protection and another person’s regulatory burden – and therein lies the rub.” 

During the discussion, Members were able to discuss with hospital leaders from across the country the regulatory issues they are facing that hinder them from being able to provide quality and affordable care to their patients.

Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) asked the panelists about how regulation is impacting rural communities:

“Roughly 20% of the nation’s population is rural. Only 9% of physicians serve in rural areas. Obviously, a drastically underserved population I would argue. We tend to be fairly effective, though, with our resources and stretch our resources further. On the exclusive use regulations, what could be done differently, you think, if we didn’t have that regulation in place?”

Leslie Marsh, CEO of Lexington Regional Health Center, responded:

“Right now, if we didn’t do anything to fix that, what would happen is patients would largely just quit going to see their specialist. … What it would really amount to if we don’t address this is that basically hospitals aren’t going to be able to respond because they are not going to be able to renovate. Patients will receive less care, less highly specialized care that they need and then ultimately the economy, the economic impact of that will impact rural communities.”

Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX) asked how telehealth can be utilized to reach more patients:

“When we begin to talk about telehealth…I’ve got a suburban district next to an urban district. Is there any benefit to a suburban population and not just a rural population?”

Kristi Hoyl, Chief Policy and Community Officer at Baylor, Scott & White Health responded:

“Absolutely. What we find in our suburban district is that there are people who just don’t have access to transportation. Being able to take care of patients in their home and being able to do those e-visits makes a lot of sense for preventative care. We believe that it will drive down readmissions. Yes, I think there is a lot of benefit for our patients throughout the continuum to have access to that telehealth opportunity.”

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) asked Dr. Robert Martinez, Chief Medical Officer at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and President of the Renaissance Medical Foundation, about plans that were put on halt for expansion due to regulatory barriers:

“I understand the CMS has given you an exception from the ban on physician-owned hospitals that would allow you to double the size of your hospital – which you haven’t been able to expand despite that exception. You want to tell us about that?”

Dr. Martinez responded:

“We’re finding that as we’re taking better care of patients, hopefully keeping more of them out of the hospital and treating them in the right setting – the hospital should be only for the sickest patients – what we’re finding is that communities throughout where we are in the three-county area are really in need. … They are really looking out for us to help them and those communities are looking for us to expand to those communities. Currently under the law we cannot expand off our main campus.”  

Chairman Roskam closed the discussion by saying that there is a bipartisan commitment to offering solutions to help hospitals provide the best care for their patients:

“There is a real interest I think on both sides of the aisle for us to identify things that we can do smarter and better and faster and more nimble and just more able. … We are going to continue to work on this, we are going to continue to drive this discussion and I think down the road we’re going to be able to reflect back that this was time well spent.”