Hart Health Strategies provides a comprehensive policy briefing on a weekly basis. This in-depth health policy briefing is sent out at the beginning of each week. The health policy briefing recaps the previous week and previews the week ahead. It alerts clients to upcoming congressional hearings, newly introduced bills, regulatory announcements, and implementation activity related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and other health laws.


Budget Conferees Slow to Make Decisions

Democrats on the House and Senate budget conference legislation met last week to assess the possible path for both chambers to come to a resolution on the outlines of a budget agreement in order to meet the legislated December 13th deadline. With the House returning this week and only 16 legislative days remaining before the budget deadline, senior Democrats are likely to put more pressure on House Republican conference chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), to accelerate negotiations and move off of their insistence on provisions in the House fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget resolution which extends sequestration and holds spending under a $986 billion cap. In conference, Democrats are expected to extract more revenue from “loophole closings” in an effort to trim the effect of sequestration and to avoid raising tax rates which they know is a non-starter for both House and Senate Republicans. Whether inside the conference or otherwise, both chambers will have to agree on a source of spending-cuts/revenue-increases to offset the cost of a long-term fix to the sustainable growth rate problems created under the current Medicare physician payment system. To do otherwise would confront Congress with a secondary well-worn path to ward off a near-25% cut in physician payments beginning in January.

House/Senate to Take Up Health Legislation

Last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on H.R. 3204, the Drug Quality and Security Act, and the vote is expected to come early this week. In general, the House-passed bill would require manufacturers of compounded drugs to report to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on outsourcing facilities and would create a national supply chain drug tracking system. The Majority Leader was forced to use the cloture route in order to fend off a move by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) to secure a vote on his ‘Show Your Exemption Act” which would require House and Senate members to disclose which staffers they chose to exempt from having to secure their health coverage under the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA)-related DC health insurance exchange. Amid the public furor over the cancellation of millions of non-grandfathered individual health insurance policies, the House has scheduled a vote on H.R. 3350, the Keep Your Health Plan Act, which House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said would allow President Obama to uphold his promise to let people keep their health plans if they like them, not just apologize for failing to do so. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) has introduced similar legislation, S. 1617.

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