What’s Ahead: This Week


Congressional Recess –

  • Both Houses of Congress are in recess this week for the Memorial Day holiday, and will return the week of June 5.

 Notable Policy Events –

  • Tuesday, May 30
    • HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), “AHRQ National Webinar on Optimizing the Presentation of Visualization of Health Data for Patients and Providers.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2reHKJu
  • Wednesday, May 31
    • Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), “The Future of Health Care: Stabilizing the Individual Insurance Market.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2qs6Qob
    • Health IT Now, “Health IT in Transition: Regulatory Steps to Lower Burden, Cost, and Increase Quality.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2rQXY8D
  • Thursday, June 1 – Friday, June 2


Weekly Wrap Up: Notable Health Care Developments From Last Week

 Fiscal Year 2018 Budget and Appropriations –

  • On May 23, President Trump released his Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget, which proposes to decrease overall funding for HHS in 2018 by 18% and increase funding for the VA by 6%. Press releases from HHS and VA: http://bit.ly/2qsgtmI and http://bit.ly/2qsuwZx HHS Budget in Brief: http://bit.ly/2qsBmy3 HHS Budget: http://bit.ly/2reOabB VA Budget in Brief: http://bit.ly/2qsbXo5 VA Budget: http://bit.ly/2renW8P Overall Budget Summary: http://bit.ly/2rez3Pj
  • On May 25, Sen. Warren (D-MA) led 21 Senate Democrats in a letter to President Trump, raising concerns about how his budget would reduce Medicaid funding, cut investments in behavioral health research, and the impact of both on veterans. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rZuwNV Letter: http://bit.ly/2rZE5Mv
  • Also on May 25, Sen. Warren (D-MA) released a report detailing the importance of funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including how proposed cuts would impact biomedical research in Massachusetts. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rZ1m19 Report: http://bit.ly/2rYYrp7
  • On May 26, Sen. Murphy led a group of 22 Senators in a letter to Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Chair Blunt (R-MO) and Ranking Member Murray (D-WA) urging them to include $52.1 million for the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) in the FY 2018 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill. Press release with text of letter: http://bit.ly/2rZGIya

 Legislative Activity –

  • On May 22, Sens. Collins (R-ME), Duckworth (D-IL), and Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Veterans Preventive Health Coverage Fairness Act (S. 1161), which would eliminate copayments by the Department of Veterans Affairs for medicines relating to preventative health services. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rhGNQz
  • Also on May 22, Sens. Grassley (R-IA) and Warner (D-VA) introduced the Medicare Orthotics and Prosthetics Improvement Act (S.1191), which would refine how Medicare pays for orthotics and prosthetics and would improve beneficiary experience and outcomes with orthotic and prosthetic care. Reps. Thompson (R-PA) and Thompson (D-CA) introduced a companion bill in the House (H.R. 2599). Press release: http://bit.ly/2rQPfDe
  • Also on May 22, Reps. Kinzinger (R-IL), Pascrell (D-NJ) and 48 bipartisan cosponsors introduced the Huntington’s Disease Parity Act (H.R. 2589), which would waive the 24-month waiting period for Medicare eligibility for individuals disabled by Huntington’s disease. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rhqu6l
  • On May 23, the House passed a number of bills related to Veterans’ Affairs: the No Hero Left Untreated Act (H.R. 1162), Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017 (H.R. 1329), VA Prescription Data Accountability Act 2017 (H.R. 1545), the Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act of 2017 (H.R. 1725), the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (H.R. 2288), and H.R. 1005. The bills now move to the Senate for consideration. Press releases: http://bit.ly/2rQdGkr and http://bit.ly/2rQwpw9
  • Also on May 23, Rep. Dunn (R-FL) and 19 cosponsors introduced the Veterans Increased Choice for Transplanted Organs and Recovery (VICTOR) Act of 2017 (H.R. 2601), which would amend the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 to improve the access of veterans to organ transplants. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rQPuhy
  • On May 24, Sens. Heitkamp (D-ND), Sullivan (R-AK) and Harris (D-CA) introduced the Empowering Federal Employment for Veterans Act (S. 1218), which would promote federal employment for veterans. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rZ3Dt7
  • Also on May 24, Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced the Deducting Expenses Derived from Use of Care and Treatment (DEDUCT) Act (H.R. 2647), which would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the 10 percent threshold on the deduction for medical expenses. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rZ7FC3
  • Also on May 24, Reps. Stivers (R-OH) and Takano (D-CA) introduced the Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran Transition Improvement Act (H.R. 2648), which would ensure that requirements allowing federal employees who are veterans with service-connected disabilities to take leave for undergoing medical treatment also apply to certain employees of the Veterans Health Administration. Sens. Hirono (D-HI), Moran (R-KS), and Tester (D-MT) previously introduced a companion bill in the Senate (S. 899). Press release: http://bit.ly/2qjXOJG
  • On May 25, Sen. Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Veterans Emergency Room Relief Act of 2017 (S. 1261), which would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to pay the reasonable costs of urgent care provided to certain veterans and would establish cost-sharing amounts for veterans receiving care at a VA emergency room. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rZoQ6w
  • Also on May 25, Reps. Coffman (R-CO) and Moulton (D-MA) introduced the Veteran Overmedication Prevention Act (H.R. 2652), which would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct an independent review of the deaths of certain veterans by suicide. Sen. McCain (R-AZ) previously introduced a companion bill in the Senate (S. 992). Press release: http://bit.ly/2qjTcU4
  • Also on May 25, Reps. Foster (D-IL), Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Ryan (D-OH), and Jenkins (R-WV) introduced the Medicaid CARE Act (H.R. 2687), which would provide states with an option to provide medical assistance to individuals between the ages of 22 and 64 for inpatient services to treat substance use disorders at certain facilities. Senate Minority Whip Durbin (D-IL) previously introduced companion legislation in the Senate (S. 1169). Press release: http://bit.ly/2qr0HDQ
  • Also on May 25, Reps. Green (D-TX) and Richmond (D-LA) introduced the Incentivizing Medicaid Expansion Act (H.R. 2688), which would provide the same level of federal matching assistance for every state that chooses to expand Medicaid coverage to newly eligible individuals, regardless of when such expansion takes place. Press release: http://bit.ly/2qriGd8
  • Also on May 25, Rep. Suozzi (d-NY) introduced the Mental Health Services for All Veterans Act (H.R. 2736), which would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to furnish free and comprehensive mental health care for former members of the Armed Services. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rZgV9e

 ACA Repeal and Replacement Activity and Legislation –

  • On May 22, Sen. McCaskill (D-MO) introduced S. 1201, which would allow individuals living in areas without qualified health plans offered through a health insurance exchange to have similar access to health insurance coverage as members of Congress and Congressional staff. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rhely3
  • Also on May 22, Rep. Barletta (R-PA) and 12 cosponsors introduced H.R. 2581, which would require the provisions of social security numbers as a condition of receiving the health insurance premium tax credit. Press release: http://bit.ly/2r4rMid
  • On May 24, House Ways & Means Committee advanced three health reform-related bills: the Veterans Equal Treatment Ensures Relief and Access Now Act (VETERAN Act) (H.R. 2372) which would clarify rules relating to veteran health insurance and eligibility for the premium tax credit; the Broader Options for Americans Act (H.R. 2579), which would allow the premium tax credit with respect to unsubsidized COBRA continuation coverage; and the Verify First Act (H.R. 2581), which would require the provision of social security numbers as a condition of receiving the health insurance premium tax credit. The bills now move to the full House for consideration. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rm86ZO Bill texts: H.R. 2372 –http://bit.ly/2rmd1KCR. 2579 – http://bit.ly/2rmdegJ H.R. 2581 – http://bit.ly/2rmuBy4
  • Also on May 24, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published its analysis of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) (H.R. 1628) as passed by the House, finding that 23 million more people would be uninsured in 2026 than under the current law and that the legislation would reduce the deficit by $119 billion by 2026. CBO analysis: http://bit.ly/2qQrPiZ HHS Secretary Price Press release: http://bit.ly/2rZqXHs Press releases from Chairs of Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means Committees: http://bit.ly/2rS0X0z and http://bit.ly/2rmaiAC Press releases from Ranking Members of Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means Committees: http://bit.ly/2rq2HkJ and http://bit.ly/2rpRjFk

 ACA Implementation –

  • On May 22, the Trump Administration and the House of Representatives filed a joint motion requesting a 90-day delay in the lawsuit over cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments. Motion: http://bit.ly/2rd1IkN
  • On May 23, HHS released an analysis finding that premiums for individual market coverage have increased significantly since the ACA’s key provisions have taken effect. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rQD2hX Report: http://bit.ly/2rhaAbV
  • On May 24, 196 House Democrats sent a letter to President Trump urging him to commit to paying the ACA’s cost-sharing reduction payments. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rR0hIT Letter: http://bit.ly/2rR7Ajs

Medicare –

  • On May 24, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced the appointment of two new members to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) as well as the reappointment of three current members. Press release: http://bit.ly/2qWEsZP

 Veterans Health –

  • On May 24, GAO published a report finding that the VA reported improper payments totaling $5.5 billion in fiscal year 2016 and highlighting ongoing efforts to reduce such amounts. Report: http://bit.ly/2qWlaUo

 Mental Health and Substance Abuse –

  • On May 23, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Gottlieb released a blog post outlining immediate steps the FDA is taking to reduce the scope of the opioid epidemic, including through the establishment of an Opioid Policy Steering Committee. Blog post: http://bit.ly/2rhzuII
  • On May 25, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced the formation of a new federal interagency initiative to better address serious mental illness across the nation, as required by the 21st Century Cures Act: The Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC). Nominations for non-federal members are due by June 2. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rXNjcd
  • On May 26, HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a podcast highlighting its efforts to combat opioid abuse. Podcast: http://bit.ly/2rZckUg

 Zika –

  • On May 23, GAO published a report highlighting actions needed to ensure an improved response to Zika virus disease outbreaks. Report: http://bit.ly/2qVywRd
  • On May 24, National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a study finding that the Zika virus circulated undetected for up to a year in some regions before it came to the attention of public health authorities. Press release: http://bit.ly/2s3VXFu

 Misc. –

  • On May 22, Rep. Banks (R-IN) and 40 Representatives sent a letter to President Trump asking him to consider replacing the current Director of the National Institutes of Health with “a director who is more aligned with the President’s pro-life agenda.” Press release: http://bit.ly/2rhgWYV Letter: http://bit.ly/2rhn7w8
  • Also on May 22, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released selected estimates based on data from the 2016 National Health Interview Survey, including data on health insurance coverage, usual place to go for medical care, current smoking and alcohol consumption rates, and diagnosed diabetes rates, among others. Data: http://bit.ly/2rZfaZv
  • On May 25, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Murray (D-WA) and 13 Democratic Senators wrote a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mulvaney urging him to abandon any proposal that would erode access to affordable preventive healthcare for women, including birth control. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rZ2wdd Letter: http://bit.ly/2rZq8OM
  • Also on May 25, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Walden (R-OR) and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Murphy (R-PA) sent a letter to NIH Director Collins requesting information about the NIH’s corrective actions related to a 2015 inspection finding multiple internal deficiencies. Press release: http://bit.ly/2rZcE5G Letter: http://bit.ly/2rZjSqf
  • On May 26, CBO released a working paper finding that the U.S. population demanded about $70 billion worth of services of primary care doctors in 2013, a 15.5% increase since 2003. Summary with link to report: http://bit.ly/2re1CcG
  • Also on May 26, CBO released an updated list of its panel of health care and economic advisors. List: http://bit.ly/2re27U1