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.


Congressional Schedule

The House returns this week to organize committees and to a light floor schedule.  On Monday, January 14th the House Ways and Means Committee meets to organize and adopt rules for the 113th Congress (at 10:00 a.m. in 1100 Longworth Bldg).  The Senate returns on January 21, the day of the Presidential Inauguration.  The following day the House Energy and Commerce Committee meets to organize and adopt committee rules (at 10:00 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn Bldg).  

The State of the Union Address will be on Tuesday, February 12th and  the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2014 federal budget is expected to be delivered late to Congress.  By law, it is required to be delivered by the first Monday in February (February 4th).  House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-01) has written to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) asking for the date when the budget documents will be released but has not received a response.  The fact that the White House has yet to give agencies their targets for FY 2014 spending, OMB can be expected to delay the release of the budget until at least mid-to-late February.
It is also possible that the Treasury Department may soon give Congress a new deadline for increasing the federal debt limit, perhaps as early as mid-February.  Given House Republican demands that spending offsets accompany the level of any debt limit increase and the President’s stated refusal to negotiate on an increase, the situation may devolve into a series of monthly or other short-term increases extending up to and, perhaps, beyond the March 1st sequestration deadline and the March 27th date when the FY 2013 continuing resolution expires.  In this regard, House Republican Policy Committee Chairman James Lankford (R-OK-05) and Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-01) have proposed a “government shutdown prevention” plan that would automatically result in 90-day continuing resolutions until a larger spending plan is negotiated and enacted.  While statements from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appear to be backing away from a government shutdown scenario suggested by other congressional Republicans, it is uncertain what tack the House will take when it comes to increasing the debt limit and dealing with sequestration and FY 2013-14 budget issues.  With the delay by the White House in revealing a new budget blueprint, it is highly unlikely that Congress will meet the Budget Control Act’s April 15th timeline for passing a FY 2014 budget resolution.

GOP Health Committee Assignments

Republican Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) have been chosen to serve on the Senate Finance Committee while Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) will leave the committee.  Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has also been selected to serve as the Ranking Member on the Senate HELP Committee, replacing Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), and new Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) has also been given a seat on the panel.  Added to the Senate Special Committee on Aging were Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) while leaving the panel are Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Richard Shelby (R-AL).

Medicare Per Capita Spending Slows

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported that Medicare per capita spending in FY 2012 increased by only 0.4% following relatively low growth in 2010 of 1.8% and 3.6% in 2011.  The HHS Secretary cited the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) as one means of the reduced spending, although other analysts cited the recession as a major reason for reduced medical spending in general.  Nonetheless, Congress is expected to confront the rising aggregate cost of Medicare, Medicaid and other federal spending programs in an attempt to trim future federal deficits.  In this regard, House Reps. Charles Boustany (R-LA-03), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07), Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11) and Pat Tiberi (R-OH-12) are collecting responses from states on how state Medicaid long-term care program expenses can be trimmed through potential tightening of the Medicaid asset eligibility rules.

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