United States: Capitol Hill Healthcare Update - January 30, 2017

At GOP retreat, consensus on healthcare elusive

House and Senate Republicans emerged from a policy retreat last week in Philadelphia with no agreement on next steps in their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Most congressional leaders, including House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), urged rank-and-file lawmakers to proceed cautiously, given the policy intricacies and political dynamics of changing health insurance for more than 20 million people. Walden recently has talked up his plans to "repair" the ACA, which represents a shift from the party's previously stated position of wiping the law from the statutes.

Conservative lawmakers in the House – including members of the House Freedom Caucus – are pressing leaders to identify an ACA replacement plan by March. Conservatives also want a rapid transition to whatever replaces the health law, while moderate Republicans are calling for a longer runway to smooth out any disruptions during the transition.

While Republicans didn't emerge from their retreat with a concrete plan to go forward, all signs point to a February or early March vote repealing key provisions of the ACA using a special procedure known as budget reconciliation, which Senate Democrats can't block with a filibuster. Republicans hope to attach some ACA replacement language to the reconciliation bill, too.

Walden said Congress will then take up a series of stand-alone health bills that GOP leaders hope to approve over the coming months. Those bills would be subject to filibuster in the Senate, so Republicans will need at least some Democratic support to approve them.

Price's HHS nomination to advance

The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on – and likely approve – the nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Price survived two hearings this month as Democrats sharply criticized the orthopedic surgeon for his personal ethics and his support for dismantling the ACA.

The committee's vote will send Price's nomination to the full Senate, where he is expected to win confirmation. Republicans in Congress and the White House are eager to see Price at HHS so they can get guidance on what ACA provisions HHS could roll back through rulemakings and what legislation lawmakers would need to approve.

Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, (R-Utah) praised Price in a statement Sunday, saying, "There's no question Dr. Price has the experience, fortitude and judgment needed to lead HHS."

House panel to consider insurance market bills

A key House health panel this week will consider a series of bills Republicans hope will foster stable insurance markets as the party plans to replace the ACA.

The Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on Thursday will consider four bills, including one that would reduce from five to three the number of age-rating bands that prevent insurers from charging older people much more than younger people. Other legislation would require verification before a patient signs up for a plan outside of the standard open enrollment period.

Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said the bills are designed to ensure the individual and group insurance markets are stable and health insurance premiums don't rise dramatically during the ACA transition.

Democrats have sharply criticized Republicans' plans with Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the committee, saying the GOP's dismantling of the health law will prompt chaos among insurers, providers and patients nationwide.

Trump's hiring freeze could impact FDA

Stakeholders were weighing how President Trump's executive order last week creating a government-wide hiring freeze may impact key federal health agencies like FDA.

Trump's order is in place until the White House's Office of Management and Budget implements a comprehensive plan for reducing the federal workforce. How it impacts FDA is a moving target, including unfilled FDA jobs based on user fee funding, not money appropriated by Congress. It's also not immediately clear whether FDA falls under the "public safety" exemption of the executive order.

OMB is expected, perhaps as soon as this week, to provide agencies with guidance on how to implement the order. The federal Office of Personnel Management also may announce additional guidance.

Incoming HHS Secretary Tom Price would be able to grant exemptions from the order for vacancies that are related to national security or public safety. FDA personnel who work on bioterrorism research may fall under those exceptions, but it's not clear if staff reviewing drug or device applications would be exempt.

The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs committees – Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), respectively – wrote to Trump last week asking for explicit guidance that filling of positions for VA direct care providers would be exempt from the president's hiring freeze.

House hearing probes Medicaid oversight

A House oversight panel on Tuesday will examine recent government reports on duplication, inefficiency and fraud in Medicaid.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services won't be able to rule whether eligibility determinations are being properly met for state Medicaid programs expanded under the ACA.

Witnesses scheduled for the Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee hearing include Carolyn Yocom, director of GAO's healthcare group; Ann Maxwell, an assistant inspector general at HHS; Paul Howard of the Manhattan Institute; Josh Archambault of the Foundation for Government Accountability; and Timothy Westmoreland, a health law professor at Georgetown University.

Trump rule nixes FDA Hill briefing

FDA last week canceled a congressional staff briefing on the new pharmaceutical and medical device user fee agreements following a Trump administration directive temporarily restricting agencies' external communications.

There was some indication last week that agencies like FDA were interpreting the order more broadly than intended by the White House, which had meant only to freeze agency rulemaking and formal guidance, not routine interaction with Congress or stakeholders.

Pharma companies contacted congressional offices last week seeking assistance in understanding the directive. Staff on Capitol Hill said they were urging the Trump White House to clarify agency latitude on external communications.

Walden to introduce bill on pre-existing conditions

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said he will introduce legislation this week that would require health plans to cover patients with pre-existing conditions.

Republicans oppose the individual mandate, and Walden didn't say how he would maintain the pre-existing coverage requirement without roiling insurance markets.

Last summer Republicans outlined their healthcare plan in broad strokes. Their plan, called "A Better Way," would guarantee people who maintain continuous insurance coverage the ability to purchase coverage at favorable rates regardless of pre-existing conditions. Those who failed to obtain or maintain coverage would be eligible for basic coverage but with higher premiums in state high-risk pools.

Walden didn't say how he would structure his bill or whether it would include federal subsidies to offset the higher premiums for coverage in the high-risk pools. Too small a subsidy would make coverage unaffordable for the sick, but too generous a subsidy would incentivize people to seek insurance only after they become sick.

Senate committee to examine individual insurance markets

The Senate HELP Committee on Wednesday will hold a hearing on the individual insurance markets and policies Congress may consider to stabilize them during the transition from the ACA.

Marilyn Tavenner of America's Health Insurance Plans and Janet Trautwein of the National Association of Health Underwriters are among the witnesses scheduled to testify.

Also testifying before the committee, which is chaired by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), will be Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (R-Ky.) and Julie Mix McPeak, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
BakerHostetler
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
BakerHostetler
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions