Trump comments throw fate of spending bill into doubt

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President Donald Trump late Tuesday night said he wants changes to the payment amounts for COVID-19 relief in an omnibus spending bill passed by the U.S. Congress on Monday. The legislation also includes several fixes to cuts in reimbursement for radiology and radiation oncology, raising questions about whether these changes will be enacted.

Trump's comments came in a video released late Tuesday night, the day after the appropriations legislation was passed. The carefully crafted compromise between Congressional Republicans and Democrats stipulated $600 in payments to individuals for COVID-19 relief, as well as other provisions designed to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.

But the bill also included a number of other provisions unrelated to COVID-19 relief. Of particular interest to the radiology community were provisions that would reduce Medicare provider payment cuts due to evaluation and management (E/M) coding changes from 10% to 4%. The bill also would revise current policy on surprise medical billing.

Radiation oncology providers were pleased by sections of the legislation that would delay until January 2022 the adoption of the Radiation Oncology Advanced Payment Model (RO Model), a proposal to change the way the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pays for radiation therapy procedures.

But in a video posted on Twitter, Trump singled out the $600 payment as being "ridiculously low" and suggested it should be increased to $2,000 or $4,000 per couple. While Democrats welcomed the proposal and suggested they would support adding it to the appropriations legislation, it's not clear whether Republicans would back it, especially after they rejected initial proposals for a larger stimulus payment.

In the video, Trump declined to state whether he intended to veto the legislation. Trump officials were involved in negotiating the appropriations package, which passed both houses of Congress by veto-proof margins.

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