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.


Congress Passes Two-Week CR, Avoids Government Shutdown

Congress successfully passed a two-week spending bill (H.J.Res. 123) to keep the government open through December 22. The bill passed a day ahead of the deadline to prevent a government shutdown - the previous continuing resolution (CR) expired on Friday (Dec. 8). H.J. Res. 123 passed the House of Representatives on Thursday by a vote of 235-193, largely along party lines, and was advanced by the Senate later in the day by a vote of 81-14. Democrats in the House opposed the measure because it did not include several of their priorities, such as protections for young immigrants or additional funding for the opioid crisis.

The latest short-term government funding measure redirects additional money to states that are running out of dollars for their Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The bill would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to allocate previously unused CHIP funding first to “emergency shortfall states”—or ones that are in danger of running out of money—before other states. A longer-term solution is expected to be included in the larger spending package to keep the government running beyond December 22.

The two-week CR provides Congress and the President with additional time to negotiate overall funding levels for defense and nondefense spending. Nevertheless, Congress is expected to pass another short-term CR come December 22 prior to passage of an omnibus spending bill to fund the government through the rest of fiscal year (FY) 2018.

Fate of ACA Stabilization Measures Remains Unclear

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) continues to express confidence that her agreement with Senate GOP leadership and the President to move individual insurance market stabilization legislation before the end of the year in exchange for her vote in support of the tax bill will be kept. The bills would create high risk pools and provide funding for cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments. The House Freedom Caucus has proposed linking Obamacare stabilization to the December 22 spending deal. They propose to fully fund defense programs through the end of fiscal year (FY) 2018, while passing another CR to keep the remaining non-defense agencies open until an omnibus package can be drafted. The Republican Study Committee, however, supports excluding any talk of CSRs, immigration and the debt limit from spending bill negotiations. Sen. Collins has said that she awaits the final conference report on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and that her ultimate vote on the tax bill could be changed. Her opposition would leave Republicans with no margin of error in the Senate.

Conyers and Franks Resign from the House

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) resigned earlier in the week following numerous accusations of sexual harassment. Conyers has endorsed his son, John Conyers III, whom has not yet announced his candidacy. However, state Sen. Ian Conyers, the congressman’s great-nephew, announced he will run for the seat, as well as state Sen. Coleman Young II. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) announced the seat will remain vacant until the November 2018 election. In addition, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) announced his resignation on Friday related to complaints of sexual harassment. Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey will call for an election with a primary in spring 2018 and a general election in late June. Both Conyers and Franks served on the Judiciary Committee.

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