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.


First Joint House-Senate Budget Deal Since 2009

The fiscal year 2016 budget resolution passed by a vote of 51-48 in the Senate last week. This is the first time in six years that the Senate has voted to adopt a budget resolution. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined all 44 Democrats and the two Independents in voting against the measure. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) did not vote. The resolution upholds the statutory sequestration caps on discretionary spending, amounting to $493.5 billion for non-defense programs in fiscal year 2016. The budget would cut spending by $5 trillion over the next ten years and would result in a surplus by 2024. Eighty percent of the cuts come from mandatory spending programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The tax and spending levels set in the resolution clear the way for the Appropriations subcommittees to begin work on individual spending bills. The budget agreement includes language affirming “the use of reconciliation for the sole purpose of repealing the President’s job-killing health care law.” Reconciliation would allow legislation to be advanced by only a simple majority in the Senate, as compared to the 60 votes usually required to overcome a filibuster. But the budget agreement also includes instructions allowing for flexibility in the use of reconciliation to respond to the King v. Burwell Supreme Court decision. Leaders of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Energy and Commerce Committee, and Ways and Means Committee are leading a workgroup to prepare for the outcome of King v. Burwell, should the Court rule against the Administration. In the Senate, Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso (Wyo.), Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) are preparing a response to the Supreme Court decision. The case will decide whether the federal subsidies provided to low income Americans to purchase health coverage across 34 states in a federal health insurance exchange are valid. House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) has indicated that repeal of sections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that have bipartisan support, such as the elimination of the medical device tax or the tax on the most generous health insurance plans, could be moved as a part of the legislative response to the King v. Burwell case. The Court’s decision is expected by the end of June. Recommendations on the repeal of the ACA through reconciliation are due to the Budget committees by July 24.

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