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.


House Returns to Focus on Postal Service

Over the weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced that she will call the chamber back this week to vote on legislation to prohibit the U.S. Postal Service from implementing any changes to the operations or levels of service it had in place on January 1, 2020. Previously, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced the September floor schedule for the House of Representatives. The September schedule will follow the same format as June and July. The first week of the month will be used for committee work. The House will be in session the following three weeks for votes on a range of bills, including to fund the federal government beyond the end of the month. The chamber will be on 24-hours’ notice to return for votes on COVID-related legislation.

Senate Recesses Without Deal on Next COVID-19 Relief Package

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) decided to recess the Senate given the absence of a deal on the next coronavirus relief package. Negotiations between the administration and Congressional Democrats are deadlocked, with the two sides still at a disagreement on unemployment benefits, state and local aid, and liability protections. Each side also remains at odds on the total size of the relief package. Democrats in the House previously approved a $3 trillion bill, and have offered to come down to $2 trillion. The White House is standing by the Senate’s $1 trillion proposal, although internal GOP divisions remain with some Senate Republicans standing in opposition to any additional funding. Talks officially collapsed on August 7, the last time key negotiators met in person. The Senate will continue to hold pro forma meetings through the end of the state work period, and will formally reconvene on September 8. Senators will receive at least 24-hour’s notice to return if the stalemate is overcome and a vote is scheduled.

Biden Selects Kamala Harris as Running Mate

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has selected Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to be his running mate. Harris is a former prosecutor and previous 2020 Democratic presidential contender. She will be the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for vice president by a major party. While Harris co-sponsored Medicare for All legislation in the Senate, she later released her own health care plan that would provide Medicare for all Americans while retaining a role for private health insurance companies in a model similar to Medicare Advantage.

While Biden is on the record in opposition to Medicare for All, which he has characterized as too expensive and having no chance of passing Congress, his health care agenda has moved to the left since his time in the Senate and as vice president. Biden has called for measures to strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as expanding premium subsidies and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and has proposed a government-run public option that would auto-enroll lowincome individuals. He has also proposed lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60. Biden has drafted a plan to make COVID-19 testing free and more accessible, increase the nation’s number of contact tracers, open up a coronavirus special enrollment period in the ACA exchanges, expand support for sick leave, restore U.S. membership in the World Health Organization (WHO), and rapidly distribute an eventual coronavirus vaccine. If elected, the Democratic candidate also plans to reverse health care-related executive actions taken by the Trump administration, including the expansion of short-term, limited-duration health insurance plans and cuts to ACA open enrollment outreach. The broader outcome of the November elections will determine what Biden would actually be able to accomplish if elected president.

Democratic Convention This Week

Democrats will hold a largely virtual and remote convention this week to formally nominate Joe Biden as their candidate for president. In addition to nominating their presidential and vice presidential candidates, Democratic Party members will also adopt the official 2020 Democratic Party platform. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former First Lady Michelle Obama, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), former President Bill Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and former President Barack Obama, among others, are scheduled to speak.

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