Democratic Health Leaders Question CMS’s Unauthorized Use of Billions of Dollars From the Medicare Trust Funds

Sep 22, 2020
Press Release
Trump Administration actions threaten the long-term financial viability of the program, significantly raise Part B premiums, and potentially compromise beneficiary access

WASHINGTON, DC—House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) expressed their serious concerns with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) lack of transparency in expanding the Accelerated and Advance Payment Programs (AAP) beyond the scope authorized by Congress in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. AAP is intended to assist certain providers in emergencies like the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the CARES Act expanded the number of eligible providers and increased the maximum payment amount. In the letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma, the Committee leaders raised concern that CMS has jeopardized the integrity of the program by expanding eligibility to more Medicare Part A providers and by including select Part B providers without proper consideration of the potential consequences for beneficiaries and for the solvency of the program.

“In expanding the scope of eligible providers beyond what Congress authorized, we are concerned that CMS has jeopardized the integrity of the Hospital Insurance (HI) and Supplemental Medical Insurance (SMI) Trust Funds in a manner that threatens the long-term financial viability of the program, significantly raises Part B premiums, and threatens beneficiary access,” emphasized the lawmakers. “We request additional information and an immediate briefing to understand the full impact of CMS’s unauthorized decision to expand the AAP program.”

“We are concerned by CMS’s seemingly cavalier attitude toward the Trust Funds, in particular the decision to proceed with a $40 billion program extended without Congressional authorization or a transparent and public analysis of its potential impact on the Medicare program and its beneficiaries,” the lawmakers continued. “While we are cognizant of the critical need of Medicare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic, CMS’s lack of transparency with Congress, and the seeming lack of consideration or concern for the integrity of the HI and the SMI Trust Funds are deeply troubling.  The Medicare Trust funds are not the Administration’s personal piggybank—they are taxpayer funds that are to be used for a specific purpose.”

In the letter, the Democratic health leaders requested answers to a series of questions and a briefing to understand the impact of CMS’s unauthorized expansion of the AAP program by October 2, 2020.

Read the full letter HERE.

In May, Chairmen Neal and Pallone raised concerns over CMS’s methodology for distributing COVID-19 loans from both the AAP Program and the Provider Relief Fund, and called on both HHS and CMS to provide Congress with more transparency. Read that letter HERE.