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.


Appropriations Actions

The Senate Appropriations Committee and the Agriculture/Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs (VA) subcommittees will be hard at work this week to finalize their fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations bills. The full Appropriations Committee will also set FY 2015 302(b) allocations (i.e., spending caps) for all subcommittees on Thursday which are expected to include about $4 billion in spending reductions to be spread over several of the subcommittees. The Senate will also continue the consideration of the House-passed bill, H.R. 3474, which the body intends to use as a vehicle to pass various tax extensions (the bill would allow employers to disregard employees with TRICARE coverage from being considered in connection with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) employer mandate). It is possible that the repeal of the PPACA medical device tax could be debated in connection with the tax extenders legislation. The House Agriculture/FDA Appropriations Subcommittee will also mark up its FY 2015 appropriations bill.

Confirmation in Senate of New HHS Secretary Appears to be a Lock

At the second hearing on the President’s nomination to succeed Kathleen Sebelius as the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Sylvia Mathews Burwell heard praise from Senate Finance Committee Republicans and Democrats as to her qualifications and “outstanding character”. When Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked the nominee about the pending bipartisan legislation which would replace the current sustainable growth rate (SGR) Medicare physician payment system, she said she is “excited about the opportunity that we can work together to get a permanent solution….” if confirmed, but was noncommittal as to the timing of the legislation this year. At Senator Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) urging, she said she would want to learn about the individual circumstances in the states provided PPACA funding to establish their PPACA state-run exchanges and that she would use the full extent of the law to get back funds that were misused by states or contractors. Senators Barrasso (R-WY) and Hatch (R-UT) have introduced legislation which aims to obtain such refunds from states with failed exchanges and they have also asked the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide them with information about the failed exchanges in Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and Nevada and how the agency intends to oversee state-run exchanges in the future.

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