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Newsletter - July 2019
Telephone town hall announced, legislative update

Dear Friend,

This month we celebrate the 243rd birthday of our great nation. I am honored to follow in the footsteps of our country’s founders. Every time I vote, I have the opportunity to reflect on the individual liberties our founders intended our country to protect. Know that I am fighting to keep this nation the freest in the world.

ImageFor the past month, my colleagues and I have been hammering out appropriations agreements. Throughout the long vote series, I have remembered that every dollar we spend in Washington comes from your hard-earned paychecks and others across the country. Because of this, I have continually advocated for responsible spending. In response to House Democrats discussing increasing salaries for members of Congress, I introduced H.R. 3440, the Do Your Job Act, which would cut the salaries of members of Congress by 10 percent each time we are unable to pass a budget. I also introduced an amendment to H.R. 3055, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. This amendment would transfer $12 million from the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Secretary to the Highway Trust Fund where it could be used to build our infrastructure. This amendment was agreed upon and added to the bill.

Although funding has been Congress’ primary focus this past month, I have continued to work on other pressing issues, particularly healthcare.

Several of you have written to me about the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed rule change to the Area Wage Index (AWI) for Medicare reimbursement. Skewed reimbursement has resulted in the closure and consolidation of rural hospitals, particularly those in rural Southeastern states. In fact, Tennessee has the second-highest hospital closure rate in the country. This rule change would restore balance to the Inpatient Prospective Payment System that Congress intended when it created the AWI in the 1980s. I was proud to sign onto two letters supporting this rule change to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and to the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma.

ImageSecretary Azar received two additional letters with my signature in June. One asked CMS not to implement their plan to include non-invasive ventilators in the Medicare Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics and Supplies (DMEPOS) competitive acquisition program. These ventilators allow patients to remain in their homes as they receive treatment, and delays in acquiring these devices could result in in increased hospitalizations and fatalities. Including ventilators in the competitive acquisition program is an unprecedented step that could result in increased medical costs.

The other letter to Secretary Azar encouraged Health and Human Services to finalize its proposal to the Medicare Part D program. This proposal would lower seniors’ drug costs by ensuring beneficiaries receive pharmaceutical manufacturer price concessions when they fill prescriptions. 

In addition to these letters to Secretary Azar, I also joined colleagues in sending a letter to the chairman and ranking members of the Energy and Commerce Committee to encourage them to draft legislation that will eliminate surprise medical billing. Between 2013 and 2015, 30 percent of Americans with medical insurance received surprise bills due to the inability of insurance companies and healthcare providers to resolve payment disputes. This is unacceptable, and I hope that this letter will encourage that committee to consider legislation to incentivize arbitration between hospitals and insurance companies so patients aren’t stuck with unexpected bills.

The work I have done on healthcare in the past month intersected with my work on the Small Business Committee. I joined a bipartisan group of freshman members to urge House leadership to repeal the medical device tax before its suspension expires in January. Small businesses make up the majority of this industry. Suspending this tax not only improved patients’ access to care, it also encouraged medical technology Imageinnovation. When this tax was in effect, the medical technology industry lost 29,000 employees. I hope that we can work with leadership to ensure this does not happen again.

Finally, I wanted to update you about the Small Business Runway Extension Act. In last month’s newsletter, I was happy to share that the Small Business Committee marked up legislation to clarify the effective date of the Small Business Runway Extension Act. This month, I wrote a letter to Acting Administrator Chris Pilkerton of the Small Business Administration expressing my support for this legislation and encouraging his agency to take it into consideration.

I’ll be hosting a Telephone Town Hall on Tuesday, July 9 from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. During the live event, constituents will be able to ask questions and learn more about my legislative agenda. To sign up, visit https://burchett.house.gov/live.

Our local team will staff Mobile Office Hours at three locations during July, bringing casework out into the community making it easier to get federal agency assistance and pass on your concerns and opinions. You do not need to make an appointment. Upcoming dates and locations are:

  • Tuesday, July 9 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Rutledge Library, 8030 Rutledge Pike, Rutledge (The library building closes for lunch between noon and 1 p.m.)
  • Tuesday, July 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Tazewell City Hall, 1830 Main Street, Tazewell
  • Tuesday, July 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Philadelphia Library, 714 Thompson Street, Philadelphia
You’ll find my office contact info below. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,
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Tim Burchett
Member of Congress
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