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.


Health Care Hearings Scheduled for September

Leadership on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee have announced two health care hearings scheduled for the first week of September. On September 6, the Committee will hear from state insurance commissioners about “Stabilizing Premiums and Helping Individuals in the Individual Insurance Market for 2018.” Insurance commissioners Mike Kreidler from Washington, Julie Mix McPeak from Tennessee, Teresa Miller from Pennsylvania, John Doak from Oklahoma, and Lori Wing-Heier from Alaska are scheduled to appear. On September 7, a panel of governors will testify on the same subject. Witnesses will include Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. According to Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the HELP Committee plans to hold additional bipartisan hearings on the individual insurance market later in the year. The Committee is working to draft a stabilization package by mid-September, which it hopes to pass by the end of the month.

GOP Agenda for Post-August Recess

Republican leadership in the House of Representatives has outlined their legislative priorities for when Congress returns from August recess on September 5. They plan to tackle a spending package covering the eight remaining appropriations bills that have yet to be passed. If successful, this package would be combined with the four-bill “minibus” the House passed earlier in the year. The minibus included funding for the Department of Defense and other security-related bills. The 12-bill omnibus would then be sent to the Senate which has not yet passed any appropriations bills. Lawmakers must act to fund the government by the end of the fiscal year (FY), September 30. The House has only 12 days in session during the month of September and the Senate has 17 days scheduled. Lawmakers will also have to address the debt limit increase before the end of September and House Republicans hope to pass a FY 2018 budget, which could begin the process for tax reform. Reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is also on the agenda. Funding for CHIP expires on September 30.

Senate Dems Comment on Menthol Cigarettes

A group of Senate Democrats have written to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb requesting that menthol cigarettes be removed from the marketplace. The lawmakers site substantial scientific data that menthol cigarettes pose a public health risk greater than that seen with non-menthol products. They also argue that menthol cigarettes serve as a “starter product” for younger Americans, and are often disproportionately targeted toward African-Americans. The letter asks why the FDA has not finalized proposed rulemaking to remove menthol from cigarettes, and when the agency plans to finalize such regulations. The letter was signed by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

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