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.


Continuing Resolution Funds Government Through December 16

On Friday, the President signed a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government open for an additional five days, through December 16. The bill passed both the House and the Senate by voice vote earlier in the week. The CR is a short-term stopgap spending measure that effectively prevented a government shutdown when funding for the federal government expired on December 11. The CR was passed to allow Congress additional time to negotiate and draft the $1.1 trillion fiscal year (FY) 2016 omnibus legislation. The additional negotiation time is needed in order to bring about compromise on the inclusion of potentially contentious policy riders. The GOP initially pushed for provisions to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, and to toughen screenings for Syrian refugees, but these were rejected by Democrats. Debate continues over a number of other policy riders, including a provision to offer a legal path for health providers and organizations to sue a government entity that punishes them for refusing to provide access to abortion-related services. There is also the question of combining the omnibus legislation with a package of permanent tax extenders, of which Republicans are in favor and Democrats are opposed. Congress is scheduled to be in session through December 18, and House leadership has indicated that they hope to introduce the final text of omnibus legislation later today (Monday). Another short-term CR may be necessary given the December 16 deadline and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) pledge to give members three days to review the legislation once it is unveiled.

Brady Offers Two-Year Tax Breaks Bill

While negotiations continue on a larger deal to permanently extend expired and expiring tax breaks, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) has offered legislation that would act as a back-up in the case that a deal cannot be reached. The $108.4 billion legislation would renew through 2016 dozens of tax provisions that expired at the end of 2014, including the research and development tax credit. Chairman Brady has said that the House will consider the two-year bill before the chamber adjourns for the year in order to ensure that at least the provisions included in the bill are extended. Agreement on a larger deal between members of Congress and the White House has yet to be reached, as debate continues over inclusion of provisions like repeal of the “Cadillac tax” and medical device tax. Lawmakers are also considering changes to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Health Insurance Tax (HIT) and help for insurers under the risk corridor program as a part of the package. The bill’s $800 billion cost has also proved to be a sticking point in negotiations. Rep. Brady has said that he is considering adding a delay of the Cadillac tax and medical device tax to the two-year extension bill, though the initial legislation does not include those provisions. While the White House has said that it would strongly oppose efforts to repeal the Cadillac tax and medical device tax, it has not issued a full veto threat. The Senate Finance Committee approved a $96 billion two-year bill (S. 1946) on the expired tax breaks earlier this year.

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