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.


Government Shutdown Now Longest in History

The partial government shutdown, in its fourth week, has set the record for the longest funding lapse in modern history – surpassing a 21-day shutdown between December 1995 and January 1996. Negotiations between congressional Democrats and President Trump remain at an impasse over the President’s demand for border wall funding with no clear path forward. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has reportedly made preparations for the shutdown to continue through the end of February. It remains unclear whether President Trump will declare a national emergency on the boarder in an attempt to circumvent Congress and fund the construction of a wall on the southern border.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, stating that the shutdown is one of the “most significant operational challenges” in the agency’s history, announced that the agency would use its limited resources to address the most critical safety work – moving funding from the pre-market review of new drugs to post-market drug safety surveillance. The FDA can’t operate using government funding during the shutdown, and it cannot accept new user fees, but it can use carry over fees from before the shutdown. Gottlieb also made assurances that the FDA is not experiencing any delays in its review of medical devices imported into the U.S.

Congress has passed legislation that would give federal workers back pay for work during the shutdown. The Senate passed S. 24 by voice vote last week; the bill was subsequently passed by the House by a vote of 411-7 and sent to President Trump for his signature. President Trump has signaled that he plans to sign the legislation.

In an attempt to jumpstart negotiations, Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) introduced legislation (S. 108) that would create a $25 billion fund for the provision of border security measures that are aligned with the President’s requests and codify protections for individuals currently covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This proposed approach for ending the government shutdown has been rejected by Vice President Mike Pence. A group of Senate Republicans have also introduced legislation (S. 104) that would prevent a government shutdown should budget negotiations fail to meet spending deadlines in the future. In such cases, the bill would create an automatic continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open. It was introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

The House of Representatives advanced legislation (H.R. 265) to fund the Agriculture Department and the FDA by a vote of 243-183. The bill would appropriate spending through the end of the current fiscal year (Sept. 30) and is based on legislation passed by the Senate last congress. It is a part of a package of bills House Democrats hope to use to pressure the Senate to vote to end the partial government shutdown. Senate Democrats withheld support for a Middle East policy measure as a protest of the partial government shutdown last week. Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) has called on the chamber to take up House-passed legislation that would re-open the government. The Senate is not expected to act because the White House has threatened to veto such spending measures if they do not include funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

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