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.


Budget Reconciliation Markups Begin

To meet the House Budget Committee’s 10-year $59.2 billion in FY 2013 reconciliation instruction savings allocated to the Ways and Means Committee, the committee adopted several measures which target refundable tax credits and the health-related programs.  One provision the Joint Tax Committee estimates would save $43.9 billion would modify the PPACA health subsidy program by tightening up the recovery of all overpayments that are made in error.  A second provision estimated to save $7.6 billion would require a Social Security number for a family to claim refundable child tax credits.  Also, the House Judiciary Committee approved provisions which would save $41 billion over the years by adopting language similar to the medical malpractice reforms previously passed by the committee and the full House.  The provisions reflect those under H.R. 5, the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare Act of 2012, which would, among other things, cap non-economic damages at $250,000.  Other House committees will soon report their budget saving recommendations so as to enable the Budget Committee to package all budget savings into one reconciliation bill which is expected to be taken to the House floor sometime in May.

Senate Budget Committee Balks on Budget Reconciliation

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad convened his committee and unveiled a committee mark which is reflective of the tax, Medicare, Social Security and other entitlement reforms recommended by the Simpson-Bowles Presidential Commission which would provide $5.4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.  He said that he would take no votes on amendments to the plan before the election.  A substitute that Senator Toomey said he would like to offer would repeal the PPACA, freeze Medicaid spending until 2018 and convert the program to a state block grant and provide for a federal version of medical malpractice reform.  If the committee does not advance a plan, Senator Toomey said he would try to force a vote in the Senate on his plan by means of a rule providing for a budget vote if the committee fails to act.

HHS Cites Two Health Insurers for Unreasonable Rate Increases

Pursuant to the authority given HHS under the PPACA, the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight determined that the health insurance rate increases proposed by two health insurers are based on “unreasonable assumptions.”  The rate increases, as high as 24%, would apply to more than 60,000 residents in seven states.  HHS said the insurers should rescind the rates if they are in effect or to refrain from putting them into effect.  The agency also said they should issue refunds to consumers or to publicly explain why they should not.  Although the PPACA does not provide authority for HHS to alter rate hikes, the insurers cited must post their response on the HHS website and their own websites.

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