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.


FY 2012 Appropriations/Debt Ceiling

According to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, expect his committee and the House to move FY 2012 appropriations measures that will cut $30+ billion from current spending levels with the labor/HHS/education (LHHS) bill to exceed $18 billion of this total.  While House Speaker John Boehner would like for all 12 appropriations bills to be finished before the August recess, as is typically the case, the vote on the LHHS bill may again be delayed until after Labor Day.  Plans in the Senate for FY 2012 actions remain unclear, particularly given the complicating factor of the need to increase the federal debt limit before August 2nd.  Speaker Boehner has proposed that the increase in the debt limit be accompanied by federal spending reductions of an equal or greater amount, preferring specific mandatory and discretionary spending cuts over general spending target levels.  The Republican goal is to reduce spending by about $6 trillion over the ten year budget window while opposing any increase in tax rates.  Reforms to entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, remain a Republican demand (with the ante picking up as the Medicare trustees report that the Part A trust fund will be exhausted in 2024, five years earlier than previously projected; although HHS Secretary Sebelius cited the PPACA as adding eight years to the program’s solvency).  In the vacuum created by the lack of a Democrat proposal in the Senate, Republican Senators Rubio, Toomey, DeMint and Ron Johnson are expected to unveil their plan to balance the budget in nine years.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would insist on conditions to increase the debt ceiling which would set so-called 302(a) discretionary spending allocations at levels below that of current spending while cutting spending levels on discretionary and mandatory programs over 5-10 years.  An indication of how serious the two parties will be on deficit reduction comes again this week during bipartisan discussions led by Vice President Biden.  It might be noted that President Obama stated that mandatory spending programs are “on the table” during last week’s meeting with congressional leaders.

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