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.


Budget Talks

Although the Senate does not return until next week, it is expected that budget talks will continue this week among the House and Senate conference committee leaders in an effort to arrive at an overall spending target for both fiscal years (FY) 2014 and 2015. The conferees were unable to meet the December 2nd deadline favored by appropriators, thus it appears that the House will proceed to pass another short term continuing resolution (CR) to give the conferees time to finalize their spending decisions.

It's the Law

The President signed into law the following two bills: H.R. 3204 (the Drug Quality and Security Act), legislation that gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to improve the safety of drug compounding and the drug supply chain (by means of federal track-and-trace provisions that preempt state laws); and S. 1545 (the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act of 2013), legislation that extends for five years the President’s emergency plan for foreign AIDS relief.

Republicans Scrutinize PPACA Deadlines

The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee announced that the panel will hold a hearing this Wednesday to oversee what progress the Administration has made to fix the HealthCare.gov website and to assess other Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) problems and extensions. In this connection, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said that the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) online marketplace will be delayed until next November. In the meantime, the agency said that small business will have to rely on insurers or their agents to assist them with their health plan selections for 2013 and file separately for any applicable small business tax credit. The agency has announced the establishment of a pilot program in Florida, Ohio and Texas under which insurers will be allowed to directly enroll small businesses outside of the exchange website. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) responded to the news of the delay by stating “the President bit off more than he can chew with this health care law, and small businesses are now forced to bear the consequences.” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that consumers will have a “significantly different user experience” when they access the website after the November 30th self-imposed deadline for improved operability. She also has turned to state and local officials to urge them to help in getting consumers enrolled under the exchanges and in Medicaid. She also defended the law which has led insurers to cancel health insurance policies which do not meet the PPACA’s benefit mandates. The extent to which states will allow their insurers to renew the cancelled policies for 2014 pursuant to the President’s “transitional rule” remains to be seen. Various health care providers have also voiced their concern over the limited provider networks that insurers have adopted for their new PPACA-compliant plans.

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