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.


FY 2015 Appropriations Bills Proceed in House

Last week the House approved H.R. 4486, the $ 165 billion fiscal year (FY) 2015 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (VA) appropriations bill, which includes a bipartisan agreement to fund the VA at $158.2 billion ($64.7 billion of which is for discretionary spending). This represents an increase in VA funding of $10.3 billion over FY 2014. The bill also includes $58.7 billion in advance appropriations for FY 2016 VA medical services, facilities, support and compliance. This week the House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to approve the 302(b) allocations (the capped level of funding allowed) for the remaining subcommittees, including Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS)-Education. The allocations will be consistent with the FY 2015 revenue and spending aggregates adopted in the Ryan/Murray budget deal. The aggregates and House authorizing committee allocations were filed last week in the Congressional Record by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). The appropriations process will again tackle Obamacare, the latest action addressing the health law was included in the draft FY 2015 Commerce-Justice-Science bill which would prohibit the Census Bureau from changing the methodology it currently uses to assess the number of insured/uninsured in its annual population survey. The House Republicans, as well as Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and John Thune (R-SD), have been critical of the Bureau’s move to change the survey questions which they said could overstate the number of insured after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) effective date.

House Passes Exception to PPACA for Expatriate Health Plans

The House voted 268-150 to pass H.R. 4414, legislation that would “deem” health plans for Americans living outside the U.S. as meeting the PPACA’s “minimum essential coverage” requirements for employer-sponsored plans. Adopted was an amendment offered by Reps. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and John Carney (D-DE) which would extend additional “minimum value” protections and the continued subjection of such plans to the applicable provisions of Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) prior to the passage of the PPACA. At this time, the fate of the bill in the Senate is uncertain. The future direction the Administration will take to implement the PPACA is expected to be hotly debated during the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee hearings to be held May 8th on the nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to become the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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