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.


Secretary Burwell to Assume Duties Monday

With the Senate having voted 78-17 to confirm the nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to become the next Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Ms. Burwell will assume her position on Monday, June 9 after her swearing in ceremony.

Congress to Quickly Address VA Waiting List and Administrative Problems

Last Thursday the Senate Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) announced that a bipartisan agreement has been reached on legislation to address the various problems facing the VA. The legislation is said to contain various accountability measures, including new authority for the VA Secretary to immediately fire VA officials for cause; the hiring of new doctors and nurses; and allowing patients who experience long waiting times (or who reside beyond 40 miles from a VA facility) to seek alternative and private care; and the authorization of funding for 26 new VA major medical facilities. The firing authority to be contained in the bill may obviate the need for the Senate to consider the House-passed bill, H.R. 4031, which is still pending in the Senate. A hearing on the legislation is expected soon after the bill is introduced and little opposition is expected to be mounted over the cost of the bill; although, the Senate may follow up the vote on the bipartisan Sanders/McCain bill with a somewhat revised Military Construction/VA appropriations bill. The House has also scheduled for Tuesday a vote on H.R. 2072, the Demanding Accountability for Veterans Act, which would require the VA Inspector General (IG), upon determining that the VA Secretary has not appropriately responded to an IG report that recommends actions to be taken by the Secretary to address a VA public health or safety issue, to notify the Secretary and the congressional veterans committees of such failure and require the Secretary to: (1) within 15 days after such notification, to submit to the IG a list of the names of each responsible VA manager and the matter for which the manager is responsible; (2) within 7 days after such submission, to notify each such manager of the covered issue; (3) to direct such manager to resolve the issue, (4) to provide the manager with appropriate counseling and a mitigation plan for resolving the issue; and (5) to ensure that a manager’s performance review includes an evaluation of actions taken with respect to such issue. The bill would also prohibit the Secretary from paying a bonus or award to any manager whose issue remains unresolved.

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