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.


Members Urge CMS to Withdraw Proposed Part B Drug Payment Model

A group of 242 members of the House of Representatives have sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt demanding that the proposed Part B drug payment model be withdrawn. The lawmakers express concern about the scope of the proposed experiment and the possibility that it will drive physicians to refer patients to a hospital outpatient department. They also are worried that the model will hinder physician efforts to participate in delivery and payment reforms. The Part B proposal has drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle. The letter was led by Reps. Tom Price (R-Ga.), John Shimkus (R-Ill.), and Charles Boustany (R-La.) and was signed by four democrats: Brad Ashford (D-Neb.), Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.). Senators Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Tester (D-Mont.), Udall (D-N.M.), Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Donnelly (D-Ind.) sent a separate letter to CMS that states “it is clear more stakeholder engagement is necessary, and CMS must engage in a meaningful dialogue with the impacted community. Further, until these concerns are resolved, we urge CMS not to move forward with the demonstration.” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) sent an individual letter to CMS outlining concerns he’s heard and asking that they be addressed in the final rule. In contrast, AARP announced a letter urging CMS to move forward with the demonstration which was signed by 25 organizations including a number of insurance companies and unions.

Zika Update

Vaccine testing for the Zika virus will begin in September, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). This first phase of testing will enroll 80 people in the United States. If it is determined that the vaccine is safe to use, the next testing phase to determine whether it is effective would involve thousands of participants in South America and the Caribbean, areas with much higher rates of Zika infection. Larger clinical trials for a vaccine would likely begin in early 2017. In the House, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) has become the first Republican to publically back the President’s request for $2 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus. His home state is at particular risk of an outbreak as early as next month. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has already called for the approval of the full funding amount.

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