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.


Energy and Commerce Advances Mental Health Reform Legislation

The House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved Rep. Tim Murphy’s (R-Pa.) legislation to reform the nation’s mental health system. H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, was introduced three years ago following the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. and advanced by the Health Subcommittee at the end of last year. Since then, the bill has been scaled back in scope to address concerns from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The bill is budget neutral, and has been stripped of costly provisions like repeal of Medicaid limits on psychiatric beds. Changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) were also removed before the full committee markup. During the markup, Democrats stressed that H.R. 2646 was not an adequate response to the problem of gun violence, and that gun control was needed in addition to mental health reform. Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) commented on the need for stronger mental health parity, and received assurances that the committee will hold a hearing on the subject before the end of the year. While Rep. Murphy hopes the bill will get a vote on the floor before the August recess, Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said that the bill is more likely to be considered in the full House during the fall. Mental health legislation has also been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), but their bill faces Democratic opposition due to possible inclusion of gun related measures from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Doctors Respond to Orlando Tragedy

During its annual meeting last week, the American Medical Association (AMA) voted for the first time to declare gun violence a public health crisis. The AMA will now begin to actively lobby in support of waiting periods and background checks for firearm purchases, as well as to allow federal research on guns. A policy has been in place for nearly two decades to effectively ban federally funded research to study gun violence. The AMA’s vote took place only a few days after 49 people were killed in a mass shooting in Orlando, Fla. Congressional Republicans, including those in the GOP Doctors Caucus, have already expressed opposition to the AMA’s decision. In related news, Democrats are working to reverse the blood donation ban for gay men in light of recent events. Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) introduced the Deliver for Our Nation at Times of Emergency (DONATE) Act, which would allow for more flexibility when screening blood donors during an emergency. The Administration has responded that it has no plans to lift the current requirement that gay men remain celibate for one year before being cleared to donate blood.

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