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.


Appropriations Bills Subject to House Votes

The House returns on Monday to continue consideration of H.R. 2055, The Military Construction/Veterans Affairs appropriations bill.  In a unique move, Republican House leaders plan are expected to call for a vote on whether to remove funding for veterans’ programs from H.R. 2055 before sending it to the Senate.  The procedure could again be used to split up more-controversial bills, such as LHHS, before Congress recesses for the Labor Day work period.  Later in the week, the House is scheduled to take up H.R. 2112, the Agriculture/Rural Development/FDA spending bill for FY 2012.

Federal Debt Limit Negotiations

With the threat that markets could implode without an agreement on spending reductions as the grease to obtain a positive vote to increase the federal debt limit, the bipartisan/bi-chamber budget negotiations led by Vice President Joseph Biden are expected to speed up this week on such topics as discretionary spending cuts, budget caps and entitlement reform.  In a bid to gain Republican support for job creation, the White House has anteed up an idea to let slide the collection of the employer-paid half of Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes.  It would appear this would be a non-starter if the White House also insists on more “economic stimulus” spending.  Making any agreement more difficult, Senator Rockefeller announced that 41 Senate Democrats have signed letters to the President stating their opposition to budget caps and he and others have indicated they will not support major changes to Medicaid, such as block granting the federal program.  Senator Chuck Schumer and several other Senate Democrats have also asked the President to steer clear of major Medicare spending reductions.  Notwithstanding the stance taken by others in the Democrat caucus, Senator Joseph Lieberman unveiled his ten-year plan to save at least $200 billion in Medicare by: raising the Medicare eligibility age every year starting in 2014 by two months until it reaches 67 in 2025; reforming the benefit structure; raising the prices of Part B and D premiums for all new enrollees; reforming Medigap policies; and asking higher-income seniors to pay an additional 1% of every dollar they earn over $250,000.  Senator Jon Kyl also made it clear that Senate Republicans will insist on at least $2.4 billion in spending reductions to secure their vote to increase the federal debt ceiling.  A deal of less than this amount would likely force Congress and the President to revisit the debt limit issue again before the 2012 elections.  The “sabbatical” taken by Senator Tom Coburn from the so-called Senate “Gang of Six” has not stymied the groups’ outreach to about 20 other senators with new details for a long-term deficit reduction framework.  Of note, Senator Coburn is planning on offering an amendment to eliminate ethanol subsidies for energy companies as part of the debate on S. 782 (the EDA Reauthorization Act), arguing that the move is not a “tax increase” but necessary to curb corporate tax expenditures.

NAIC Committee Votes to Help Agents under PPACA MLR

Health insurance agents and brokers have complained that their income and ranks will be trimmed significantly if the PPACA minimum loss ration rules are left to stand.  The Health Insurance and Managed Care Committee of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners voted to offer up a dozen options for modifying the impact of the MLR on health insurance agents and brokers.  The report will be taken up next by the NAIC Professional Health Insurance Advisors Task Force which will make a recommendation to HHS on whether and how to make some sort of accommodation for the agents.  Bipartisan legislation introduced by Reps. Mike Rogers and John Barrow would remove agent compensation from the administrative expenses used to determine the MLR.

June 13, 2011: | Page 1 Page 2



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