Before we all start sipping eggnog and making plans to watch the New Year’s ball drop, we at AHPA want to highlight some of the BIG policy conversations we expect to kick off next year. Congress will continue to negotiate on crafting the 12 appropriation bills needed to fund the government – with critical provider priorities hanging on the balance like delaying the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payment cuts and tackling physician payment cuts by January 19th. If you have not heard by now, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also the talk of the town among legislators – we expect this to be a key theme next year. Additionally, the current telehealth flexibilities and hospital-at-home model are set to expire at the end of 2024. All these issues, coupled with the Presidential election, will make 2024 a whirlwind of a year.

On the 12th Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me 12 Appropriation Bills… Please

Last month, Congress passed a temporary bill to fund the federal government referred to as a laddered Continuing Resolution (CR) because it created two different deadlines for Congress to fund certain programs. By January 19th, Congress must delay the Medicaid DSH cuts and appropriate funding for Community Health Centers, Teaching Hospital Center Graduate Medical Education (GME), the National Health Service Corps, Special Diabetes Program, and reauthorize the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA). Before January 19th, Congress must also take action to tackle physician payment cuts scheduled to take effect January 1st. Funding for programs covered by other eight appropriations bills expire February 2nd.

AI conversations are booming. Will they translate to sound policy?

The federal government is tuned into how disruptive AI can be to the current status quo and is interested in ensuring that AI is used safely and ethically. President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) to “place the highest urgency on governing the development and use of AI safely and responsibly.” Additionally, both the House and Senate have held several hearings to discuss the benefits and shortcomings of AI in health care and potential policy actions. We expect to see the conversation around guardrails and regulation for AI to pick up steam next year. To read AHPA’s past AI article, click here.

The Doctor is Calling… But for how long?

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 extended many of the COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities until December 31, 2024. With the deadline looming, many users of telehealth fear that telehealth could face a slow or even rapid death if policymakers don’t take action. While Congressional leaders understand that telehealth is a great medium for care delivery, extending the shelf life for reimbursement will be difficult given the high price tag that the Congressional Budget Office has given to it. Providers will need to demonstrate how the proliferation of telehealth will result in better health outcomes and lower costs as more individuals use it to access health care services.