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.


Price Nomination Advances to Senate Floor

The Senate Finance Committee advanced the nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week, without the support of any committee Democrats. Democrats boycotted the scheduled Finance Committee markup to vote on Rep. Price’s nomination. Committee rules require the presence of at least one member of the minority party in order to have a quorum to conduct business. Democrats cited a need for additional information about Rep. Price’s trading of health care stock as the reason for the boycott. They requested that Rep. Price be brought in for further questioning. Their decision was strongly criticized by both the White House and committee Republicans. Following the delay, Committee Republicans advanced the nominee by a vote of 14-0 through suspension of the rules. Rep. Price’s nomination will now head to the Senate floor. Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hopes the final vote will take place this week. Given Republican’s 52-seate majority in the Senate, Rep. Price can still be confirmed without any Democratic support.

Proposal to Limit Tax Breaks for Employer-Sponsored Insurance

Lawmakers are considering limiting tax breaks for employers who provide health insurance as a means to offset the cost of replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) expressed strong support for the policy last week. He believes that the change would make the tax code fairer by distributing tax benefits among those with and without a job. But Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) later stated that the policy might not have enough support to pass Congress. Speaker Ryan’s “A Better Way” health proposal released in 2016 would cap the exclusion so that it limited only the most generous plans. There are Republicans in both chambers who expressed opposition to the plan. More than 155 million people get their coverage through their employer. The tax exclusion is the largest subsidy provided through the tax code - $250 billion in premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance are excluded from federal income and payroll taxes. Those opposed to the proposal are concerned that capping the exclusion could reduce the number of people with employer-sponsored insurance and negatively impact people with high medical costs. The Senate Finance Committee will follow the example of Ways and Means in considering the policy. There is still no consensus on how to cap the employer tax exclusion, or whether the change should be included in the first or second reconciliation bill expected to pass this year.

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