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.


Senate Completes Work on Minibus Package, Adjourns for Abbreviated August Recess

The Senate passed a four-bill minibus appropriations package (H.R. 6147) last week which would fund the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Agriculture, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Interior departments for fiscal year (FY) 2019. The $154.2 billion spending measure passed by a vote of 92-6, with Republicans Ted Cruz (Texas), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.) voting in opposition mainly out of concern about overall spending levels.

Given the Senate’s earlier passage of funding for Energy-Water, the Legislative Branch, and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, the chamber has now passed seven of the 12 appropriations bills necessary to fund the federal government past the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Staff plan to work with their House counterparts to begin reconciling the bills with the House legislation over the August recess.

The Senate is expected to address funding for the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services when it reconvenes on August 15. But even if the Senate is successful in tying the two bills together and reaching a deal with the House on those measures, Congress will likely still have to approve a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the rest of the government past the September 30 deadline. Lawmakers are likely to push consideration of appropriations that touch upon the contentious issue of immigration – Homeland Security, State-Foreign Operations, and Commerce-Justice-Science – until after the November midterm elections. President Trump has threatened a government shutdown if Congress does not provide additional funding for a border wall.

Congress will have approximately six weeks to work between the time both chambers return to session after Labor Day and when lawmakers leave town to campaign. It is unclear whether the Senate will have time to address several remaining health care agenda items, including a response to the opioid crisis, reauthorization of federal pandemic and bioterrorism response programs, and consideration of measures to address the rising cost of prescription drugs, such as S. 974, the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act or legislation to ban gag orders at the pharmacy counter (S. 2554).

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