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.


Congress Completes and President Signs FY Omnibus Appropriations Bill

After extending the current Continuing Resolution (CR) for three days and before recessing until after the Martin Luther King holiday, the House and Senate passed H.R. 3547, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. The President signed the legislation into law on Friday. Appropriations committee leaders in both chambers praised the bipartisan nature of the process and the directed spending for all twelve appropriations categories, thus avoiding CR-like provisions for fiscal year (FY) 2014. The $1.012 trillion discretionary spending bill passed on a vote of 359-67 in the House and by 72-26 in the Senate. Health programs were among the beneficiaries of the legislation which restricted the level of sequestration cuts for most programs. Among the major health spending provisions for FY 2014: the National Institutes of Health (NIH) received $29.9 billion (about a $1 billion increase over FY 2013) allowing for 385 new research studies/trials including the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative and Alzheimer’s programs; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received $6.9 billion (an increase of $567 million) to address issues including state-based bioterrorism and pandemic response programs ($1.3 billion), Advanced Molecular Detection efforts ($30 million), the Preventive Health and Health Services block grant ($160 million) and smoking cessation; community health centers (CHCs) received $3.6 billion (an increase of $700 million) that would allow for 450 new centers; the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) received $3.6 billion (an increase of $144 million) and $115 million for the “Now is the Time” violence prevention program; and Project BioShield received $255 million. Senate Democrats were able to prevent House Republicans from defunding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), but Republicans declared victory by holding the line on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)/PPACA spending ($3.7 billion) and cutting $10 million in funding for the PPACA’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). While the law allocates $831 million to the CDC and $62 million to SAMHSA from the health law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF), Republicans were successful in cutting about $1 billion in spending and in requiring the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a website that shows the details of all programs that receive funding from the PPHF.

House Passes PPACA Disclosure Act

On a vote of 259-154 (with 33 Democrats voting aye), the House passed H.R. 3362, the Exchange Information Disclosure Act, which would require HHS to submit weekly reports through March 2015 on the status and operation of HealthCare.gov. Among other things, the reports would have to disclose: the website’s problems and steps taken to fix them and information on the number of site visits, new accounts, enrollments by plan type and zip code; and information on the individuals serving as navigators. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) spoke in opposition to the bill saying the “red tape” would hamper the law’s implementation. However, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) said the bill is consistent with the Administration’s commitment to “transparency”. The Administration Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) was in opposition to passage of the bill.

Senate Passes Poison Control Bill

The Senate passed and sent to the President for his signature H.R. 3527, the Poison Center Network Act which among other things authorizes $700,000 for the next five years for the operation of the national toll-free poison control hotline and $800,000 annually for a national media campaign.

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