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.


PPACA Becomes Congressional Focal Point for Pre-August Recess Actions

The Senate appears at a standstill in its attempt to follow the House’s lead in approving fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations, although the Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up the Defense bill this week. The House is prepared to leave the FY 2015 Labor/Health and Human Services (HHS)/Education appropriations bill in the wake after passing the Energy/Water bill and setting up the Financial Services bill for a vote this week. It appears that the House Appropriations Committee will take its final action before the August recess when it marks up the FY 2015 Interior/Environment bill this week. With appropriations at a standstill between the two bodies, Senate Democrats and House Republicans have geared up for another legislative confrontation over Obamacare. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and others released a draft of a House Resolution which would authorize the House to bring suit against executive agency actions to delay the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) employer mandate and related penalties for non-compliance. The proposed civil action seeks injunctive relief regarding the “failure of the President” or any other Administration official “to act in a manner consistent with their duties under the Constitution and laws of the United States” with respect to the implementation of any provision of the PPACA. The resolution will be taken up in the House Rules Committee on Wednesday. While the President called the action a “stunt”, the Chairman of the House Rules Committee, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), said that Congress has a duty to uphold the balance of power. In response, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said “It is deeply disappointing that Speaker Boehner and House Republicans are choosing to waste time and taxpayers’ dollars with a political lawsuit whose sole objective is to score partisan points….This is not what the American people want.” The Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also stated his intent to take aim at the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. which he said is the worst decision in the last 25 years and that “It’s wrong for five men to decide what happens to women in America.” The “Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act” (S. 2578, H.R. 5051) would overturn the Supreme Court ruling which allows non-publicly traded for-profit corporations to disregard the PPACA’s “preventive health services” related to birth control for women. The legislative findings say the need for the bill is: to reinstate contraception coverage; to prevent employers from discriminating against their employees and dependents; and to restore the original intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (which the Supreme Court used as the basis for its ruling). The bill achieves the desired aim without directly amending the PPACA. It also remains to be seen whether the House and Senate can reach a resolution in conference on how to either pay for or ignore the $38 billion cost of the Veterans Affairs (VA) reform legislation (H.R. 3230) which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently lowered from $50 billion.

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