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.


Lawmakers Turn to Funding the Federal Government

Now that Congress has returned from a long summer recess, lawmakers’ focus will be on moving a stopgap-spending bill before the new fiscal year (FY) begins on October 1. Conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus are pushing for a continuing resolution (CR) that funds the government through the beginning of 2017, in order to avoid policy compromises and bargaining on a large spending deal during the lame-duck session following the November elections. Some Freedom Caucus members have voiced concerns about the lack of accountability during lame duck sessions of members who are retiring or have been voted out of office. But Republican leadership, along with congressional Democrats, appear more likely to support a short-term CR followed by a bipartisan budget deal negotiated before the end of the calendar year. Because there is the chance that the GOP could lose their majority in one or both chambers, leadership would prefer to control the negotiation process during lame-duck than leave it to the 115th Congress after the new year. And Democrats want the option of a clean slate should Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton win the election, so that she does not have to negotiate funding for the federal government during her first days in office. Issues likely to arise during the formulation of a CR include funding to combat the Zika virus and the opioid abuse crisis. While the President has issued an official notification that he plans to submit the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal for a vote in Congress, prospects of passage remain bleak. Progressive members of Congress remain staunchly opposed to the agreement, and a number of Republicans have also signaled their opposition. Democrats, however, have echoed the above concerns about lawmaker accountability during a lame-duck session regarding the TPP if it is brought for a vote after the general election. Congress is scheduled to be in session through the first week of October, though it is possible that the chambers could recess earlier to allow time for campaigning in home districts.

Zika Update

In a revision of previous agency guidance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that all donated blood in the United States should be screened for the Zika virus, not only blood that is donated in areas of active transmission. The decision reflects concerns about increases in travel-related cases and sexual transmission of the virus. There are currently no known cases of the virus being spread through blood transfusion at this time. The 11 states with the highest risk of local transmission (Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, South Carolina, Texas) have four weeks to initiate testing, while all other states have 12 weeks to begin screening. Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Thomas Frieden has begun the push for inclusion of Zika funding in the spending bill to prevent a government shutdown at the start of the new fiscal year (FY) starting October 1. He emphasized that a continuing resolution (CR) without additional Zika funding would delay longterm projects necessary to federal Zika response. Research initiatives, support to states with local transmission, mosquito control infrastructure, and the development of diagnostic tests could be negatively impacted. The Senate is scheduled to vote again this week on the $1.1 billion Republican Zika spending bill, which Democrats remain in opposition to because of restrictions placed on Planned Parenthood funding.

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