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.


Congress Passes Short-Term Spending Bill, Avoids Government Shutdown

Congress succeeded in passing a continuing resolution (CR) on September 28, just two days before the start of the fiscal year (FY) 2017 deadline to avoid a government shutdown. The CR will extend FY 2016 spending levels through December 9, leaving a longer-term deal to be passed during a lame duck post-election session. The spending measure includes $1.1 billion in funding to combat the Zika virus through vaccine research and mosquito control. The funding bill also includes $7 million in new spending to address the opioid abuse epidemic. This money will allow for the implementation of some of the provisions contained in the recently passed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). The risk of a lapse in government funding had grown in recent weeks as negotiations dragged over the inclusion of emergency spending to address the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich. House leadership resolved the dispute by agreeing to include money for Flint in a separate water resources bill. The Senate voted 72-26 to approve the bill, with 12 Democrats and 14 Republicans in opposition. The House of Representatives passed the CR by a vote of 342-85, with 75 Republicans and 10 Democrats voting in opposition. President Obama signed the stopgap-funding bill shortly after it cleared Congress. After wrapping up work on the CR, lawmakers quickly adjourned and returned home to the campaign trail. When Congress returns from the election season recess on November 14, lawmakers will spend the lame-duck period negotiating a larger bipartisan budget deal before the CR expires. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has voiced support for the passage of smaller “minibus” packages, rather than a single large, last minute omnibus funding package. This idea has also been endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

House Passes Individual Mandate Exemption

The House of Representatives has advanced legislation that would protect customers formerly enrolled in failed non-profit health insurance networks known as co-ops, established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), from having to pay a penalty for lacking insurance coverage. Sixteen Democrats crossed party lines to support the legislation, which passed by a vote of 258-165. Other Democratic party members argue that the bill is unnecessary because enrollees who lose coverage because of a mid-year co-op collapse are provided with a special sign-up period to purchase new coverage. Customers can also receive a hardship exemption if coverage is unaffordable. Seventeen of the original 23 co-ops have failed due to financial problems. The White House has threatened to veto the bill.

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