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April Legislative Updates

Medical Device Excise Tax Repeal Introduced in House and Senate

Setting the stage for possible legislative action in the coming months, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Protect Medical Innovation Act of 2019 (S.692) in the Senate on March 4, 2019.  The House companion version (H.R.2207) was introduced by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA), and Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) on April 10, 2019.

This legislation will lower the cost of critical medical and dental devices and create jobs by repealing the 2.3% excise tax on medical device sales.  

“Medical devices and new technologies improve the lives and health of millions of Americans every year. Given that this tax applies to revenues - not profits - it is extremely punitive to medical technology innovators. It’s time we permanently repeal this outdated tax on innovation, and support jobs and well-being across the country,” said Rep. Ron Kind.

 

Maternity Legislation Addresses Access to Oral Health

On March 27, 2019, Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL), Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced the Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness (MOMMA’s) Act in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

The legislation seeks to reduce America’s rising maternal mortality rate. On average, maternal mortality claims the lives of 700 American moms each year.

The shocking statistics cut across geography, education level, income, and socioeconomic status. However, women of color die at much higher rates than white mothers. Nationally, African American mothers die at 3-4 times the rate of white mothers.

The MOMMA’s Act uses a five-pronged approach to address and reduce maternal deaths:

  • Establishing national obstetric emergency protocols through a federal expert committee,
  • Ensuring dissemination of best-shared practices and coordination amongst maternal mortality review committees,
  • Standardizing data collection and reporting,
  • Improving access to culturally competent care throughout the care continuum, and
  • Expanding Medicaid coverage to new mom’s entire post-partum period (1 year), including coverage for dental services.

The bill would expand women’s access to oral health services for pregnant and postpartum women to include dental services necessary to prevent disease and promote oral health, restore oral structures to health and function, and treat emergency conditions that are furnished to a woman during pregnancy (or during the 1-year period beginning on the last day of the pregnancy).

 

Medicare Advantage Plan Cover One Third of Medicare Beneficiaries

Traditional Medicare is losing enrollees and political support to private health plans that cover a third of Medicare participants. These Medicare Advantage plans receive a fixed amount per enrollee to provide benefits rather than a per-service payment rate. That means the plans have more incentive than physicians in traditional Medicare to provide efficient, cost-saving treatment.

Credit the enrollment surge to a slew of regulatory changes by the Department of Health and Human Services allowing the plans to offer more benefits, including gym memberships, dental services, vision coverage, and home care services. This year, Medicare Advantage plans began covering transportation to pharmacies and medical appointments along with home-delivered meals. Next year, they’ll cover in-home technology letting patients remotely interact with caregivers.

As more resources go toward Medicare Advantage plans, traditional Medicare is taking a back seat. It’s part of the Health and Human Services effort to transform fee-for-service Medicare into a program that rewards quality care rather than the number of treatment caregivers provide.