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.


Senate Passes Reconciliation Legislation

On Thursday, the Senate approved legislation through the fast-track budget tool known as reconciliation to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill passed by a vote of 52-47. Reconciliation prevented a filibuster and allowed for passage of the legislation by a simple majority. Approval of the bill was a symbolic message from Republicans, who have vowed to force a presidential veto of repeal of the 2010 health care law since the becoming the majority party. Previously, Democrats had never allowed for a stand-alone vote on ACA repeal when they were in control of the Senate. The measure would effectively repeal the individual and employer mandates, Medicaid expansion, and the authority for the federal government to run health insurance exchanges and provide subsidies for plans purchased through the marketplace. In addition to eliminating a number of the law’s taxes, the reconciliation bill also cuts funding for the Prevention and Public Health fund and eliminates risk adjustment programs. The measure also defunds Planned Parenthood, a provision that caused moderate Republican members Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to join a united Democratic caucus in voting against the package. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was the only senator who did not vote. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) offered an amendment to repeal the Cadillac tax, which was overwhelmingly supported by a bipartisan vote of 90-10. Seven Democrats and three Republicans voted against the amendment. The Senate version of the bill expanded upon the House passed-measure in response to several conservative Senators who believed the House bill did not go far enough to repeal the ACA in its entirety. The amended legislation will now be subject to approval by the House before being sent to the White House. While President Obama will veto the legislation, this will be the first time such a repeal bill succeeds in reaching his desk. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the reconciliation bill would reduce the deficit by $295.6 billion over the next decade.

USPSTF Makes Skin Cancer Screening Recommendations

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued a draft update of its 2009 recommendation on skin cancer screening. The USPSTF reaffirms its 2009 findings that the evidence for routine visual skin cancer exams for people who do not show signs of the disease is not strong enough to recommend the practice. It is proposed that the routine skin examinations receive an “I” grade, meaning that the evidence is insufficient and that the relative benefits and risks of the process cannot be determined. USPSTF calls for further study of skin cancer exams, and will accept comments on its draft through December 28.

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