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 Resolutions Headed to Conference Committee

Last week, the House adopted its fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget resolution by a vote of 228-199. Seventeen Republicans joined every Democrat in voting against the resolution. The Senate has also approved its Republican budget in a 52-46 vote. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) were the only Republicans to vote against the budget blueprint. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) abstained from voting. No Democrats voted in support of the Republican budget. The vote followed a long series of amendment votes on revisions to the resolution. Though the amendments, like the budget itself, are non-binding, they indicate the chamber’s stance on the legislative agenda for the coming year. Senators proposed 85 health-related amendments among the nearly 800 amendments filed. In total, the Senate considered and voted on 49 amendments over the course of 15 hours. Sen. David Vitter’s (R-La.) amendment to require that all members of Congress, the President, Vice President, and their appointees obtain exchange-based insurance passed 52-46. The Senate also passed a Medicare amendment from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), which would create a deficit-neutral reserve fund to protect the Medicare program, but it would be up to the Senate Finance Committee to produce any legislation making changes to the Medicare program. Speaking to a long-standing criticism of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) amendment would ensure the use of dynamic scoring for major tax and spending legislation and passed by a vote of 59-41. The Senate did not opt to debate the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) 30-hour workweek definition, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), or the medical device tax, mostly due to the fact that the budget proposal already assumes a full repeal of the health care law. Since both the House and Senate passed their budget resolutions, the chambers will conference to reconcile budgetary measures leading up to the April 15 statutory deadline for Congress to complete action on a budget plan. The conference debate will consider reconciliation language, which differs between the two chambers’ budgets. If Congress is successful in negotiating and passing a joint conference agreement, Republicans will be able to use the reconciliation procedure to attempt repeal of the ACA. Bills considered using reconciliation rules cannot be filibustered by the Senate.

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