POLICY BRIEFINGS


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.


THIS WEEK'S BRIEFING - DECEMBER 5, 2011


FY 2012 Appropriations Omnibus or CR?


Although the House and Senate Appropriations Committees continue to negotiate the terms of an omnibus bill to fund federal agencies for the remainder of FY 2012 (including HHS/CMS/NIH), an agreement in the House remains speculative with many House Republican fiscal hawks still insisting on an additional $20 billion in spending cuts beyond the amount specified under the Budget Control Act.  Congressional leaders appear resigned to shifting the debate into next February by passing another continuing resolution.  The current CR is likely to be extended from December 16 until December 23rd when Congress would like to wrap up the legislative year.  Before they wrap up legislative business, House Republicans intend to fix the scheduled Medicare physician payment cut of 27.4% next year by attaching remedial legislation to a year-end “extenders” package.  The most likely change will involve a freeze at current reimbursement rates which could last for one year, at a cost of $21 billion over ten years, or for two years at a cost of $38.6 billion.  Scheduled cuts after such a one or two year freeze would then amount to 32% and 36%, accordingly.  Regardless of the term of the temporary fix, a permanent solution to the SGR problem will become a topic of discussion as Congress proceeds next year to fashion a response to the Budget Control Act’s mandated sequestration of $1.2 trillion in federal defense and non-defense spending over ten years.


The Week in Congress


Last week the Senate took up legislation to extend the current FICA payroll tax exemption for another year, but could not agree on a means to finance the legislation.  The debate will pick up this week over the means, if any, to pay for the extension.  Some members would like to pay for the bill with benefit spending cuts.  The House passed H.R. 3010, legislation that revamps the federal rule-making process by requiring agencies to consider new criteria when issuing regulations, including alternatives to any regulation proposal, the scope of the problem the regulation is meant to address and potential costs and benefits of the proposal and alternatives.  The bill creates thresholds for “major” regulations (costing over $100 million/year) and “high-impact” regulations (costing more than $1 billion/year) and additional procedural steps before their implementation, thus likely impacting significant Medicare, Medicaid and PPACA regulatory efforts.  However, it is questionable that the Senate will pass the legislation.  This week the House is also scheduled to take up H.R. 1254, Rep. Dent’s “Synthetic Drug Control Act,” and H.R. 2405, Rep. Rogers’ “Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act.”


House E&C Committee Moves to Repeal CLASS Act


Last week the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 33-17 to pass H.R. 1173, legislation that would repeal the PPACA long-term care CLASS Act.  House Republicans remain adamant to repeal the program to prevent the Administration from resurrecting the program at a future date.  The bill was amended to make funding for the National Clearinghouse for Long Term Care voluntary in order to reverse the PPACA mandated spending.



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