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.


Kennedy Announces Retirement from Supreme Court

Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his plans to retire from the Supreme Court effective July 31. Kennedy was first nominated to the court in 1987, and has been the court’s swing vote in a number of important 5-4 decisions. His exit from the nation’s high court provides President Trump and the Republican Senate with the opportunity to shape the judicial branch and shift it to the right for the next several decades. The confirmation process for the President’s nominee is likely to dominate the Senate schedule through the fall. President Trump said he has already narrowed down his list of potential nominees to five names, and will announce his pick on Monday, July 9. Senate Majority Leady Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that the Senate will confirm a successor before the November midterm elections. Confirmation hearings will likely be held in August or September in order to hold a vote before the Supreme Court’s new session begins in October. Much of the focus has been on the implications of Kennedy’s retirement on Roe v. Wade. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), both of whom support abortion rights, are likely to be at the center of the debate. Their support will be crucial in a Senate confirmation vote; Collins has already stated that she would prefer the next justice to uphold the Roe v. Wade decision. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted prior to the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement found that two-thirds of the public do not want to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, while three in ten (29 percent) would like to see the decision overturned.

Appropriations Update

The House Appropriations Committee postponed its markup of the fiscal year (FY) 2019 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill for the second time. The panel now plans to consider the bill after the July 4 recess. The markup was likely postponed due to the ongoing immigration debate about separating families at the border. The House panel has already approved 10 appropriations bills; Labor-HHS-Education and Homeland Security are the only two left to consider.

The Senate Appropriations Committee completed its markup of all twelve FY 2019 spending bills last week with its approval of the $179.3 billion Labor-HHS-Education funding bill by a vote of 30-1. The Senate’s bill would provide $39.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – a $2 billion increase over current levels, and $3.7 billion to combat the opioid epidemic -- a $145 million increase. The spending legislation also includes $3.5 billion in appropriations for public health preparedness and $1.6 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

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