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.


Zika Update

The number of locally transmitted Zika cases in Florida continues to increase and is now estimated at 22, while the number of communities with residents who have contracted the virus is also growing quickly. Last week also saw the first death related to the Zika virus in Texas. An infant born with microcephaly whose mother had traveled to Latin America while pregnant died shortly after birth. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell responded to criticisms from the Texas GOP delegation that the Administration is not distributing the money currently available to fight Zika. She explained that of the $589 million repurposed from other programs, HHS had the authority to spend $374 million within the U.S. Of that domestic topline, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received $222 million, $143 million of which has been obligated toward anti-Zika efforts as of August 8. Her letter also details the amount of money the administration has spent or plans to spend on Zika response in Texas. Later in the week, HHS announced that the Administration would reprogram $34 million within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and $47 million for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to address the virus and avoid a funding lapse for the agencies’ work on a vaccine. The shift in funding for BARDA will come from other HHS agencies, including the Centers
for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Secretary Burwell noted that the move would negatively impact other public health priorities, such as addressing mental health issues and reducing opioid abuse and addiction. Meanwhile, the Administration and Congress continue to spar over who is to blame for the lack
of a funding bill to combat the virus. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton joined the fray last week, calling on Congress to return from summer recess immediately to pass the bipartisan bill negotiated in the Senate or to negotiate a new solution. The total number of Zika cases across the United States is now estimated at 8,580 as of last Thursday. This is more than double the number of cases that were present when Congress adjourned four weeks ago

DeSalvo Steps Down as HIT Coordinator

Dr. Karen DeSalvo has stepped down from her role as the head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), but will remain at HHS as acting assistant secretary of health, focusing on public health issues. Her deputy at ONC Vindell Washington will replace DeSalvo as the top health information technology official.

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