Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

FEDERAL HEALTHCARE AGENCIES BRACE FOR DISRUPTION AS GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN LOOMS

House Republicans will gather tonight for a GOP-only meeting to plot strategy on passing a stopgap budget bill, but a breakdown among key senators on separate immigration legislation has elevated the risk of a government shutdown at week’s end.

Washington runs out of money Friday night, and that means all but essential government services, including Health & Human Services (HHS) and its agencies, would close. In previous shutdowns, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) furloughed about half its workforce and stopped inspections, enforcement actions and monitoring operations. FDA this week is expected to release a memo outlining what would happen to advisory committees and agency user-fee activities during a shutdown.

Under the last government shutdown, in 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) processed Medicare provider claims, and most agency functions were deemed “essential” and continued during the closure. But some CMS activities – like healthcare fraud and abuse investigations and certain provider certifications – did stop during that shutdown.

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Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

BILL TO AVERT GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN COULD INCLUDE HEALTHCARE PROVISIONS

With less than two weeks before another deadline to avert a government shutdown, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill say they’re cautiously optimistic about crafting a budget agreement that also would include several key healthcare provisions.

The budget outline would include setting top-line budget numbers for two fiscal years, a long-term reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), renewal of Medicare payment provisions and a series of changes to Affordable Care Act (ACA) provider taxes. While that framework has been discussed among Republicans and Democrats, congressional staff warn it has not been agreed to and could stall over a number of unrelated issues. For example, some Democrats say they will withhold support for a budget agreement or another stopgap spending bill to keep the government open unless their demands for immigration provisions are met. Continue Reading

Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

CONGRESS RECONVENES, FACES NEW DEADLINES FOR KEY HEALTHCARE POLICIES

Lawmakers return to Capitol Hill this week ahead of more self-imposed deadlines to resolve a series of thorny healthcare policies, including funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the rest of the federal government, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and community health centers.

The Senate reconvenes today while the House will be in session next week. Congress last month approved a stopgap-funding bill to keep the government open through Jan. 19 – creating a new deadline that raises the risk of a shutdown later this month. Continue Reading

Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN: CHIP, OTHER HEALTH PROVISIONS AT RISK AS DEADLINE NEARS

Renewal of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and a host of other healthcare provisions hang in the balance as congressional Republicans struggle to find consensus on a year-end budget bill that would avert a government shutdown.

Unless lawmakers approve a new stopgap funding bill this week, the federal government will close beginning Saturday morning. The optics of a shutdown couldn’t be worse for Republicans, who want to tout their sweeping tax reform legislation that Congress is expected to approve this week. Continue Reading

Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

CONGRESS PUNTS SHUTDOWN DEADLINE AND HEALTHCARE PRIORITIES

Lawmakers last week approved a stopgap budget bill to keep the government open until Dec. 22, creating a pre-Christmas showdown over a host of spending decisions and key healthcare priorities.

Republican leaders on Capitol Hill pledge they won’t let the government shut down, but significant differences exist between the parties – and among GOP lawmakers – such that the risk of budget brinksmanship only days before Christmas is real. Continue Reading

Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

CONGRESS SCRAMBLES THIS WEEK TO AVERT GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN.

Congressional Republicans face a Friday deadline to approve a stopgap budget bill to avert a government shutdown, delaying until later this month key decisions on healthcare priorities like renewing children’s insurance and Medicare provider programs.

Republicans will push a temporary funding bill this week to keep the government open until Dec. 22, effectively punting a series of policy choices that could elevate the risk of a government shutdown right before Christmas. Continue Reading

Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

CONGRESS RECONVENES WITH DAUNTING HEALTHCARE TO-DO LIST

Lawmakers returning to Capitol Hill this week after the Thanksgiving recess face a daunting series of tax and budget deadlines that will set the stage for how Congress addresses year-end healthcare priorities.

That healthcare to-do list includes renewing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which expired in September. CMS has allocated $607 million in October and this month to help shore up the program in 14 states and territories. More states will run out of CHIP funding beginning in January if Congress doesn’t act. Continue Reading

Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

SENATE COMMITTEES TO REVIEW TRUMP’S HHS PICK

The year-end schedules of the Senate HELP and Finance committees just became more clogged, as the two panels will lead the review of President Trump’s nominee to be Health & Human Services (HHS) secretary.

Trump announced this morning that he selected former HHS official Alex Azar as his choice to succeed former Secretary Tom Price. “Happy to announce, I am nominating Alex Azar to be the next HHS Secretary,” Trump tweeted this morning while still in Asia. “He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!”

Azar previously served at HHS during the George W. Bush administration as deputy secretary and general counsel. Most recently, he was a senior executive for Eli Lilly. Continue Reading

Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

December Most Likely Timetable for CHIP Even After House Approval

The House last week voted to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2022, but disagreements over how to pay for the program are likely to delay consideration in the Senate beyond this month.

On a mostly party line 242-174 vote, the House adopted the five-year extension along with a renewal of funding for community health centers. But the pay-fors House Republicans had identified – including tapping money from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) prevention fund and means-testing Medicare premiums for wealthy beneficiaries – were non-starters for most Democrats.

The Senate Finance Committee has its own version of CHIP renewal legislation that largely mirrors the House’s bill, except the Senate has not identified any offsets. Continue Reading

Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

House Plans CHIP Vote This Week but Final Action Not Likely Until December

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said lawmakers will vote this week on legislation to renew federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), even amid unresolved partisan disagreements over how to pay for it.

Republicans and Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have been trying to hash out competing offsets to pay for extending for five years the insurance program that covers nearly nine million children of low-income families. The bill also includes $1 billion to bolster Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program as part of general hurricane relief for the island.

Republicans on the committee want to pay for the CHIP extension by tapping money from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) prevention fund and increasing Medicare premiums for wealthy seniors. Democrats object to those pay-fors, and the two parties have not been able to develop a bipartisan solution. Continue Reading

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