House to Vote on Cadillac Tax Repeal

The House of Representatives will vote this week on legislation to repeal the Cadillac tax on high-cost, employer-provided health insurance plans (H.R. 748) under suspension of the rules. The 40 percent tax on the cost of coverage that exceeds certain amounts was established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It has been repeatedly delayed and is currently scheduled to take effect in 2022. The CBO estimates that repeal of the tax would cost at least $168 billion over 10 years. If the House proceeds to consider the bill under suspension of the rules, the measure could be passed without an offset. It remains unclear whether the Senate would take up the legislation.

Romney to Lead Senate Talks on ACA Replacement

Senate Republicans have begun discussions on a plan to replace the ACA in case the 2010 law is struck down in court. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is reportedly taking the lead in negotiations, alongside Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). While it remains unclear what the latest Republican alternative to the ACA would look like, GOP lawmakers have consistently stressed their support for current protections for patients with pre-existing conditions in light of the ongoing lawsuit. Sen. Scott has said that the plan will also continue to allow young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until the age of 26.

21st Century Cures Duo to Work on Follow Up Legislation

Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) issued a joint statement on the four year anniversary of the House’s passage of the 21st Century Cures Act announcing that they are “beginning to work on new bipartisan legislation that will continue to build upon the progress we have made and help us take the next step toward finding even more life-saving cures.” While the announcement did not mention any specific policies, both lawmakers continue to serve as senior members on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Stopgap Spending Bill Appears Increasingly Likely

Lawmakers have made little progress in negotiations with the White House to set topline spending limits for fiscal year (FY) 2020, increasing the likelihood of a continuing resolution (CR) being necessary to keep the government open after the end of FY 2019 on September 30. While the House of Representatives has passed 10 of the 12 annual appropriations bills, the Senate has yet to introduce a single spending measure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will not allow his chamber to begin marking up and passing appropriations bills without a budget caps deal on total spending levels for defense and non-defense domestic programs. Spending cuts totaling $126 billion known as sequestration will go into effect in January if Congress does not reach an agreement.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) has stated that lawmakers will stay in Washington during the August recess if necessary to avoid a default on the federal debt. The deadline to increase or suspend the debt limit could fall as early as the beginning of September. The House is scheduled to leave town on July 26, while the Senate will adjourn on August 2. Lawmakers currently plan to return from August recess after Labor Day on September 9.

HHS Announces Quality Measurement Summit

HHS announced that it will convene public health and health industry stakeholders to create a roadmap for streamlining the department’s quality programs to increase health care transparency and move toward value-based care. The summit to improve quality measures across federal health programs and to better understand health system performance will be chaired by Deputy HHS Secretary Eric Hargan and University Hospitals Chief Clinical Transformation Officer Peter Pronovost. An executive order signed by the President on June 24 gave HHS, the Department of Defense, and the VA 180 days to create a quality roadmap that aligns and improves government health programs’ data and quality measures.

HHS Personnel Update

Adam Boehler, Director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), has been nominated by the President to serve as CEO of the United States International Development Finance Corporation. The move will require Boehler to leave his post at CMMI and his position as senior advisor for value-based care to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, where he has served since 2018.

JAMA Publishes New Study on Hep C Drug Pricing

New research, co-authored by Sean Dickson of the West Health Policy Center, examines the pricing for three Hepatitis C drugs. Specifically, the study highlights the potential interactions between list price reductions, manufacturer revenues, PBM rebates, and 340B discounts. Click here to access the full JAMA article.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings and Markups

House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing “Oversight of Federal Efforts to Combat the Spread of Illicit Fentanyl;” 10:00 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.; July 16

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