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.


FY 2015 Appropriations Actions

Over the objection of Republican members, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski’s (D-MD) recommended 302(b) spending allocations (i.e., caps) for all subcommittees. Of note, the Labor/Health and Human Services (HHS)/Education subcommittee was allocated $156.8 billion which is slightly above the $155.7 allocated by the House Appropriations Committee. The chairwoman said that the allocations for all twelve subcommittees were, in total, consistent with the $1.014 trillion discretionary cap enacted as part of last year’s Murray/Ryan budget deal. Republicans objected because they said it would circumvent the budget cap by, among other things, changing mandatory programs within the Labor/HHS/Education spending bill to achieve savings of about $2 billion. Both the House Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations Committee passed their version of fiscal year (FY) 2015 Agriculture/Food and Drug Administration (FDA) appropriations with the House providing $2.6 billion in discretionary funding to the FDA (an increase of $23 million over FY 2014) and the Senate providing $2.588 billion ($36 million above FY 2014). Senator Alexander (R-TN) said he had obtained report language in the Senate bill which instructs the FDA to consult with doctors, pharmacists and patients in the implementation of the legislation which gives the agency greater authority over compounding pharmacies. Also of note, the House bill encourages the FDA to develop abuse-deterrent formulations of opioids to help prevent prescription drug abuse while also providing flat-line funding for biologics and for devices and radiological health. The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved the Military Construction/Veterans Administration (VA) spending bill which provides $158.6 billion to the VA with $65.1 billion in discretionary spending ($1.85 billion above FY 2014). Addressing the VA scandal, the Senate committee said that “in response to allegations of misconduct at a number of VA medical centers in an effort to conceal patient scheduling delays by keeping secret wait lists, and the recognition that such practices may not be isolated incidents, the bill provides an additional $5 million above the budget request for the VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) to conduct a nationwide investigation throughout all Veterans Integrated Service Networks of scheduling practices and procedures. The bill also prohibits the payment of performance bonuses to Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical directors, assistant medical directors and Senior Executive System employees until the investigation is completed and reforms have been instituted.” The scandal has also induced the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to say he will soon be considering legislation to address the matter.

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