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 Agreement on the Verge?

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said he will keep his word to adjourn the House for the year after this week’s legislative agenda is concluded. This gives little time for Budget conference leaders to use regular order to move a concurrent resolution (CR), H.Con.Res. 25, setting federal spending priorities for fiscal year (FY) 2014 and, possibly, for FY 2015. If not, House and Senate leaders may resort to an expedited procedure to pass a stand-alone bill to set overall spending priorities and give appropriators time to allocate agency spending to avoid breaching the January 15th date when the current CR runs out. Alternatively, the House may resort to passing another CR to extend the January 15th date. It has been reported that the Senate and House Budget Committee chairs, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), are nearing agreement to about a $1 trillion overall FY 2014 spending level which differs from the levels preferred by the two bodies ($967 billion in the House and $1.058 trillion in the Senate). Major spending issues left in the balance are the scheduled 2% cut in Medicare spending mandated under sequestration and the January 1st cut in Medicare physician payments (see more on this latter issue below). Potential allocations to Labor-Health and Human Services-Education agencies also differ in the House ($121.8 billion) and the Senate ($164.3 billion). Also, the extent to which negotiators will give agencies additional flexibility to reallocate spending reductions remains to be seen. Members are also lining up to voice their preferences on spending issues; for example, Reps. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Barrow (D-GA) and 81 other members sent a letter to House leaders expressing their opposition to any further cuts to the Medicare Advantage (MA) program. At a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said that “While Medicare Advantage continues to grow, the cuts made in the health-care law threaten the future of the program and could put coverage at risk for thousands of beneficiaries in 2014 and many more in the future….”

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