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 Minibus Conference

The House and Senate appointed conferees on H.R. 2112, the “minibus” FY 2012 appropriations bills for Agriculture/FDA, Commerce/Justice/Transportation and Housing/Urban Development with designated members likely to continue their discussions despite the House recess this week.  House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said a conference report needs to be ready by November 14 so floor action can occur that week.  The bill is also likely to include another CR extending additional agency funding from November 18 into December.  The Senate is expected to begin work this week on another minibus which includes the FY 2012 Energy/Water, Financial Services and State/Foreign Operations measures with Homeland Security and the Legislative Branch appropriations possible additions in conference.  A resolution of the usually contentious HHS/Labor/Education appropriations bill remains to be ironed out, most likely in a last-minute late December effort to get Congress out of Washington.

Super Committee Deadline Looms

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction held what is likely their final hearings last week and face a November 23rd deadline to come up with a minimum $1.2 trillion 10-year deficit plan.  The committee heard from Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson, the co-chairs of President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, who expressed concern that the Super Committee would fail the country unless they come up with a significant deficit reduction plan similar to the one they have proposed.  Also, the Bipartisan Policy Center, headed by former CBO Director Alice Rivlin and former Senator Pete Domenici, suggested that the Super Committee be given more time to consider a grand deal through a two-step process.  One scenario would be for the Super Committee to agree on partially or fully meeting the minimum of $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, but also give the other congressional committees of jurisdiction further instructions to come up with tax and entitlement changes that could also be given an up or down vote in both chambers.  The later suggested that the Super Committee invoke a “trigger” under the Budget Control Act to force a vote on up to $1.7 trillion in tax changes and $5 trillion in Social Security reform and health program related savings, part of which could be used for a permanent fix to the Medicare physician payment system.  While statements by committee members indicated little public progress, apparently House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have entered back channel efforts to come up with a resolution that they hope can pass both chambers.  A bipartisan 100 House member group urged their leaders and the committee to come up with a significant long-term package of savings.  On the other hand, House Ways and Means Committee member Sander Levin released a report throwing stones at a Republican proposal to curb Medicare, Social Security and other entitlements by means of adopting a slower-growth “chained CPI”.  The report said that adopting such a measure would result in nearly $60 billion in new tax increases and hundreds of billions more in benefit cuts for Social Security and Medicare.  In addition, a group of thirty-three Senate Republicans said the Super committee plan should include no net increase in tax revenues, but include comprehensive tax reform that lowers rates.  Also, Reps. Joe Courtney and Tom Cole said they had 160 bipartisan signatures on a letter urging the committee to avoid cutting the tax exclusion for employer-paid health insurance.  Nonetheless, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the November 23rd deadline “cannot be missed”.

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