PORT ANGELES — The U.S. House of Representatives has passed its first appropriations package for fiscal year 2020, which included provisions backed by Rep. Derek Kilmer that would fund efforts to reduce Growler noise and protect hospitals, such as Olympic Medical Center, that are facing stiff cuts from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The House Democrats passed the “minibus” package last Wednesday with a near party-line vote, and the bill is now awaiting approval in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The bill passed the House 226-203, with no Republicans voting in favor of the package.
The $982.8 billion package, HR 2740, includes the fiscal year 2020 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education, Defense, State-Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water Development spending bills.
“Today, I was proud to support an appropriations package that makes progress on important priorities for our region,” the Gig Harbor Democrat said in a statement.
“This bill will continue to invest in our military installations, ensure access to quality and affordable health care, spur energy innovation, fight climate change, and invest in our kids.”
Kilmer said that over the last several years he has pushed the Department of Defense to fund efforts to reduce the noise of the Navy’s Growler jets.
The bill includes a provision that requires the Navy to measure jet noise generated, make those measurements available to the public and work with affected communities to mitigate potential impacts.
He also worked to secure $2 million to continue the Navy’s work to develop technologies that can reduce jet noise.
“Real noise measurements are needed to fully protect Olympic National Park and surrounding communities from Navy Growler jet noise,” said Rob Smith, Northwest regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “We thank Rep. Kilmer for asking the Navy for the facts on their jet noise impacts to the Peninsula’s greatest natural asset, Olympic National Park.”
The bill also contains several provision that continues Kilmer’s effort to protect access to health care.
Kilmer authored a provision that aims to halt a new policy from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services known as “site neutrality,” which would cost Olympic Medical Center $47 million over 10 years.
The provision directs CMS to reconsider the rule and take into account the negative effects to hospitals like OMC that are designated as a Sole Community Hospital or are located in a Health Professional Shortage Area.
“The CMS policy of ‘site neutrality’ will significantly reduce access to needed physician care for the elderly, low income and sickest patients in rural areas served by Sole Community Hospitals,” Olympic Medical Center CEO Eric Lewis said.
“Safety net hospitals serving these patients in both urban and rural areas face a 60 percent reimbursement cut in physician practice expenses, and patient access is going to be negatively impacted. I’m grateful for Rep. Kilmer’s continued efforts to fix this problem and help protect access to care in rural areas.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at email@example.com.