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 at Odds on ACA Repeal Timeline

The President stated last week that it could take until next year for an Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement plan to be ready. This is a slower timeline than that put forth by congressional Republicans, who responded to the President’s comments by reiterating that their goal is to complete work on ACA repeal by this spring. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess (R-Texas) both confirmed that they will complete a reconciliation measure within 30 days. The Senate’s number two Republican John Cornyn (R-Texas) also attested that work will be done on a faster timetable. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) clarified that the President was referring to the amount of time it would take to implement a replacement plan, and made assurances that repeal and replacement will be completed this year. Republicans hope to pass a reconciliation bill that will repeal the law and contain some elements of a replacement by March. A series of smaller replacement bills could follow at a later point. This is an ambitious timeline given the number of Republicans who have expressed support for simultaneous repeal and replace, and the fact that there is still not agreement on what a replacement plan should look like. Lawmakers are currently working with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on which parts of a replacement plan could be included in the reconciliation repeal bill.

Tom Price Confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services

The Senate confirmed Representative Tom Price, MD (R-Ga.) as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the early hours of February 10. The 52-47 vote fell along party lines. Price, an orthopaedic surgeon, is the first doctor to head the agency since Louis Sullivan, HHS Secretary from 1989-1993, and only the third physician to hold the position in the agency’s 60-year history. While in Congress, Price was one of the top opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). During his confirmation hearings he agreed with Republican calls to stabilize the insurance market in the short-term, and to move forward with repeal and replacement at a moderate pace. He reiterated that the administration’s ACA replacement plan would ensure patient access to affordable health insurance coverage. During his nomination process Price also went on the record about the need for more transparency around drug pricing, as well as the importance of giving states more flexibility to administer their Medicaid programs. He also expressed support for an eight-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

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