Legal Insights and Perspectives for the Healthcare Industry

The US House of Representatives unanimously voted to approve HR 647, the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA), on October 28. This legislation would amend the Public Health Service Act to increase the number of permanent faculty in palliative care at accredited medical, nursing, and social work schools and other programs (including physician assistant education programs); promote education and research in palliative care and hospice; and support the development of faculty careers in academic palliative medicine. PCHETA now moves to the Senate where a similar measure, S 2080, has been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. However, given the fast approaching deadlines for Congress to fund the government and reauthorize expiring programs, this legislation may not receive attention in the near term. We will continue to monitor the bill’s progress and keep you apprised of any new developments.

Law clerk Ariel Landa-Seiersen contributed to this blog post.

With bipartisan bills introduced in both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate on October 30, Congress appears ready to expand access to telehealth benefits for Medicare beneficiaries. The Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies for Health Act of 2019 (CONNECT Act) may eliminate significant barriers Medicare beneficiaries currently face in accessing and utilizing telemedicine. The CONNECT Act acknowledges the potential for telehealth services to promote the “three pillars” of healthcare—expanding access, improving quality, and reducing spending—particularly at a time where healthcare workforce shortages make it difficult for many Medicare beneficiaries to access the care they need.

The 116th Congress convened on January 3 with Democrats controlling the House for the first time since 2011 and Republicans maintaining their majority in the Senate. Divided government typically constrains Congress’s ability to pass broad, new legislative initiatives, while also limiting the scope of the legislation that does pass. Healthcare policy, especially, has been a point of partisan contention in the past. However, there are several areas where some degree of cooperation is possible in the 116th Congress and will likely impact the healthcare industry and health policy in 2019.