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.


Senate Awaits Supreme Court Nomination; McConnell Vows to Block Process

The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has resulted in a political debate over the process to replace him. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that the process of nominating Scalia’s replacement should be left to the tenure of the next president. But Democrats are pressuring their Republican colleagues to defy the Majority Leader and consider the President’s nominee this year, while also urging the Administration to choose a consensus candidate for whom Republicans could not find a legitimate reason to block. Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has said that he will wait to see whom the President nominates before deciding whether to schedule a hearing on the nomination. While Republican leadership have stated that they intend to complete the full appropriations process this year, for the first time in two decades, the battle over the Supreme Court will likely use up much of the Senate’s tight calendar this spring, making their pledge increasingly unlikely. This term, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear cases on abortion clinic restrictions and the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) birth control mandate as it applies to nonprofits.

House Opts to Use Ebola Funds to Fight Zika

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), Labor/Health and Human Services Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.), and Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman Kay Granger (R-Texas) have written to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shaun Donovan directing the administration to use existing unobligated Ebola funds to respond to the emerging Zika virus. In his budget request, the President had asked for $1.8 billion in emergency funding to help combat the virus. But lawmakers have pointed to the $1.4 billion in unused money approved by Congress to respond to the 2014 Ebola outbreak at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the additional $1.3 billion in unspent Ebola funds within the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State. Congress will now have to pass legislation allowing transfer of the funds. Such a bill will likely be opposed by Democratic lawmakers, who have pushed for additional funding to strengthen public health systems to prevent future crises. The administration has signaled that they are open to shifting any money that has not yet been obligated for important uses, and House appropriators have emphasized that they would be willing to make additional investments to fight Zika if needed.

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