New Legislation Introduced

The “Reducing Disparities Using Care Models and Education Act of 2015” (H.R 3285) http://congress.gov introduced on July 29th was introduced by Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. http://pascrell.house.gov from New Jersey along with additional co-sponsors The bill would enable the Secretary of HHS to arrange with IOM http://iom.nationalacademies.org to do a study on health disparities.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) would agree to study the extent of health disparities, type and quality of preventive interventions, health services, and outcomes in all populations. IOM would also study what contributes to inequities, existing programs, and policies that could reduce disparities.

The next step would look at best practices and successful strategies to reduce disparities, explore priorities for successful intervention programs, and develop potential opportunities for expanding or replicating these programs.

After the enactment of the legislation, the Secretary would consider awarding grants related to disparities reduction activities. These grants may be awarded to develop and implement programs and activities to reduce health disparities in all populations including children.

In addition, the Secretary acting through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovations would need to provide documentation explaining how the testing of a payment and service delivery model will be conducted that is consistent with costs and quality issues.

The testing for the service delivery model would need to target at least one health disparity, do a root cause analysis of the health disparity, identify and select performance targets to achieve reduction, develop a proposal explaining how to make payments in some way contingent on reducing health disparities, and include a reliable method for monitoring progress

The funding for the grants calls for $5,000,000 for FY 2017 and additional sums of necessary for fiscal years 2018 through 2021.

On the Senate side, Senator John Thune www.thune.senate.gov from South Dakota introduced the “Rural Health Care Connectivity Act of 2015” (S. 1916) http://congress.gov, a bill that would amend the Communications Act to permit Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF) to apply for support from the Universal Service Fund’s (USF) www.usac.org/default.aspx Rural Health Care Program (RHCP) www.usac.org/rhc.

The RHCP provides funding for telecommunications and broadband services to provide healthcare in rural communities. The Communications Act specifies which types of healthcare providers are eligible to receive RHCP support. However, SNFs are currently not included.

When the FCC www.fcc.gov updated the RHCP and created the “Healthcare Connect Fund” in 2012 www.fcc.gov/document/healthcare-connect-fund-fact-sheet, it proposed to implement a pilot program to examine funding SNFs but in January 2014, the FCC deferred implementation of the pilot program.

Senator Thune said, “This common-sense bill would support and improve the healthcare services that SNFs can provide to rural communities by allowing them access to funds that are currently out of reach. The legislation would achieve this goal without raising the existing cap on the Universal Service Fund.”

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