August 12, 2021

Congress Begins Debate on Federal Budget Reconciliation Legislation

As last-minute details were being hammered out prior to passage of the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, Senate Democrats released their federal fiscal year 2022 budget instructions to be executed using the reconciliation process, a process designed to allow for expedited consideration of certain tax, spending and debt limit legislation. While general Senate rules allow virtually unlimited debate and several parliamentary procedures to stop the passage of general legislation, reconciliation bills can be passed relatively quickly and with only a simple majority. Even with this expedited process, Congress may not vote on the reconciliation bill until the end of September.

The Democratic proposal addresses many of the party’s healthcare promises, although lawmakers admit that they will likely be forced to scale back their plans so that the numbers add up and budget targets are met. The budget documents released Aug. 9 instruct Senate committees to draft legislation by mid-September that expands Medicare, closes the Medicaid gap, lowers prescription drug prices, keeps new Affordable Care Act subsidies and makes in-home care available to more people. Specifically, the Senate Committee on Finance e also has been instructed to:
• Create paid family and medical leave.
• Expand Medicare to include dental, vision and hearing benefits and lowering the eligibility age.
• Address healthcare provider shortages.
• Establish long-term care for seniors and persons with disabilities.
• Invest in health equity (maternal, behavioral and racial justice health investments).

During the reconciliation process, the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) will explore opportunities for Congress to address ongoing physician payment concerns, including the expiration of the 3.75% conversion factor increase Medicare providers received in 2021.

Watch for announcements from ACR that relate to effects on radiology as the reconciliation process makes its way through Congress.

For more information about the federal budget and reconciliation process, contact Josh Cooper, ACR Vice President of Congressional Affairs.