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.


GOP Convenes for Issues Conference, Considers ACA Repeal/Replace

The House and Senate GOP held their annual issues conference in Philadelphia last week. While lawmakers debated a number of policy issues, including overhaul of the tax code and the formation of a plan for infrastructure, members’ main focus was on the creation of a roadmap for repealing and
replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opened the conference with a discussion of the party’s plan for President Trump’s first 200 days in office. Speaker Ryan said that Republicans aim to repeal and replace portions of the 2010 health care law before the August recess. He expects a mark up of a reconciliation package to occur in the next several weeks, with a final package being brought to the House floor by late February or early March. The package will repeal the law and include elements of a replacement plan. Lawmakers said that Sen. McConnell appeared to be in agreement with Speaker Ryan’s timeline. The fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget resolution set an initial deadline of January 27 for two committees in the House and two committees in the Senate to send reconciliation legislation that would repeal the ACA to their respective
Budget committees. Vice Chairman of the House Budget Committee Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) said that he does not expect to hear from the Ways and Means Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee until mid-February. At the retreat, Republicans discussed plans to use the FY 2018 budget reconciliation
process to accomplish tax reform before August of this year. Speaker Ryan also mentioned expansion of the veterans’ choice program as an agenda item for the 115th Congress.

Walden Proposes to Retain Protections for Pre-Existing Conditions

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) announced plans to introduce a bill that would ensure health care coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions. Rep. Walden is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, a key health care panel in the House and the first committee to consider specific legislation related to replacement of the 2010 health care law. Many Republicans are supportive of providing for coverage of pre-existing conditions for those who maintain continuous coverage. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) protects all people with a pre-existing condition, regardless of whether they have been previously uninsured or have allowed their coverage to lapse. Chairman Walden’s measure will be considered
during an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday. During the hearing, the committee will also examine a handful of other bills that could be included as a part of the series of Republican’s step-by-step ACA replacement plan. One bill would change the law’s age rating, allowing insurers to charge older people no more than five times as much as younger people, up from the current ratio of three times as much. Another measure would shorten the grace period for people who fail to pay their premiums on time before they are kicked off their insurance plan. Chairman Walden has said that one possibility for moving ACA replacement pieces is through must-pass items on the 2017 agenda, including reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the expiring Food and Drug Administration (FDA) user fee agreements.

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