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.


Senate to Debate Labor-HHS Spending Bill This Week

The Senate returned from its shortened August recess last week and began debate on a massive spending bill to fund the departments of Defense, Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services (HHS). The Senate is using the House-passed defense measure (H.R. 6157) as its vehicle and plans to file a substitute amendment that includes the language of the Senate’s Defense (S. 3159) and Labor-HHS-Education (S. 3158) spending measures. The combined bills amount to approximately 60 percent of the entire appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2019. S. 3158 includes $179.3 billion in funding, $2.2 billion above current levels. While dozens of amendments are likely to be filed, only a few are expected to get floor time. The leaders of both parties have agreed to keep the process free of controversial policy riders. Today, the Senate plans to vote on two amendments, including one from Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) that would provide $1 million for a firefighter cancer registry. Work on the minibus is likely to be completed this week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hopes to complete conference negotiations on nine of the 12 appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year on September 30. A stop gap spending measure would then need to be passed to extend current levels of funding for the remaining agencies. Lawmakers have yet to begin conference negotiations on any spending bill. The House of Representatives remains in recess until its scheduled return on September 4th.

W&M Releases Medicare Red Tape Report

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Health Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) released a report last week detailing steps to reduce regulatory burdens within the Medicare program. The report includes recommendations for both legislative and administrative changes and is the result of the Committee’s year-long “Medicare Red Tape Relief Project.” Through their request for information and roundtable discussions with stakeholders, the lawmakers identified several major themes, including the need to remove red tape that distracts providers from patient care, stands in the way of streamlining and coordinating care, increases the cost of health care, stands in the way of modernizing the Medicare program, burdens facilities with reduced staffing, stands in the way of transparency for providers and beneficiaries, and exacerbates the shortage of health care workers. The report identifies several issues applicable to all provider groups, such as the need for improved flexibility to provide telehealth services, challenges associated with the Stark Law as well as documentation and reporting burdens. The full report can be found here.

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