What’s Ahead: This Week


  • Tuesday, March 28
    • House Energy & Commerce Committee, “Examining FDA’s Medical Device User Fee Program.”
  • Wednesday, March 29
    • House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, “Budget Hearing – Department of Health and Human Services.”
    • House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, “Federally-Funded Cancer Research: Coordination and Innovation.”
    • Senate Indian Affairs Committee, “Native Youth: Promoting Diabetes Prevention Through Healthy Living.”
    • Senate Special Committee on Aging, “The Arch of Alzheimer’s: From Preventing Cognitive Decline in Americans to Assuring Quality Care for those Living with the Disease.”

Notable Policy Events

  • Tuesday, March 28
    • Capitol Connection, “Telehealth for Improving Mental and Behavioral Care.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2ncpR9m
    • Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), “Will We Have Medical Treatments in the Event of an Attack or Pandemic?” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2ncLq9x
  • Tuesday, March 28 – Wednesday, March 29
    • Healthcare IT Connect, “2017 State Healthcare IT Connect Summit.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2naWE01
  • Wednesday, March 29
    • Cato Institute, “Can Health Insurance Innovations Reduce Prices and Drive Cost-Effective Care?” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2naJEaO
    • Global Health Care, “26th National HIPAA Summit.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2naIJqS
  • Wednesday, March 29 – Friday, March 31
    • National Business Group on Health, “Business Health Agenda Conference 2017.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2naVhOM
  • Thursday, March 30
    • Brookings Institution, “Spurring Private Investment in Health R&D Around the World.” Additional information: http://brook.gs/2naTLw8

Weekly Wrap Up: Notable Health Care Developments From Last Week

Legislative Activity

  • On March 21, Sens. Warren (D-MA), Grassley (R-IA), Hassan (D-NH), and Isakson (R-GA) introduced the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 (S. 670), which would make hearing aids for those with mild to moderate hearing loss available over-the-counter. Reps. Kennedy (D-MA) and Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a companion bill in the House (H.R. 1652). Press release: http://bit.ly/2naVCkL Fact sheet: http://bit.ly/2nba8sJ Bill text: http://bit.ly/2naZd1S
  • Also on March 21, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Murray (D-WA), and Sens. Gillibrand (D-NY) and Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Invest in Women’s Health Act of 2017 (S. 689), which would provide women with increased access to preventive and life-saving cancer screenings. Press release: http://bit.ly/2neFrTe
  • Also on March 21, Senate Veterans Affairs Ranking Member Tester (D-MT) and 9 cosponsors introduced the Deborah Simpson Act (S. 681), which would improve the benefits and services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to women veterans. Press release: http://bit.ly/2neL8AI
  • On March 22, Reps. Barletta (R-PA) and McCaul (R-TX) introduced the Verify First Act (H.R. 1671), 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/2ncVH5O
  • Also on March 22, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Murray (D-WA) and nine bipartisan cosponsors introduced the Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act of 2017 (S. 700), which would improve the reproductive assistance provided by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to severely wounded, ill, or injured members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and their spouses or partners. Reps. Larsen (D-WA) and 8 cosponsors introduced a companion bill in the House (H.R. 1681). Press release: http://bit.ly/2nlEclk

ACA Repeal and Replace

  • On March 20, House Rules Committee released two manager’s amendments to the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628), which would allow states to opt for block grants rather than per capita caps, give states the option to impose work requirements as a condition of Medicaid eligibility, and makes certain adjustments to confirm with reconciliation instructions. On March 24, the Rules Committee released an additional amendment to the bill, which would repeal the ACA’s essential health benefits starting in 2018, allow states to use the $100 billion innovation fund and an additional $15 billion for behavioral health and maternity care programs, and would delay the repeal of a tax on high earners for 6 years. The same day, the House began debate and ultimately cancelled a vote on the bill.
  • On March 21, the House passed two health insurance-related bills: the Small Business Health Fairness Act (H.R. 1101) by a vote of 236-175, which would provide for the establishment of association health plans, and the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act (H.R. 372) by a vote of 416-7, which would eliminate an antitrust exemption for health insurers. Both bills now move to the Senate for consideration. Press releases: http://bit.ly/2ncs5FDand http://bit.ly/2ncuHDm
  • On March 21, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Murray (D-WA) and 20 Democratic Senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) urging him not to take up the American Health Care Act due to concerns that it would further harm individuals struggling with an opioid use disorder. Press release: http://bit.ly/2nlrxyW Letter: http://bit.ly/2nlryTw
  • On March 22, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Wyden (D-OR) and House Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Pallone (D-NJ) released new information showing that the AHCA’s repeal of the tax on prescription medications would increase aggregate Medicare Part B premiums by $8.7 billion through fiscal year 2027. Press release: http://bit.ly/2ncI0nd
  • On March 22, the White House released a Statement of Administrative Policy, stating its strong support for the American Health Care Act. SAP: http://bit.ly/2nhWyDN
  • On March 23, Sen. Shaheen (D-NH) led a group of 42 Senate Democrats in a letter to House Speaker Ryan noting that the caucus “will not support any efforts that jeopardize the consumer protections our constituents rely upon when they purchase coverage.” Press release with text of letter: http://bit.ly/2nX4tI7
  • Also on March 23, Congressional Budget Office released an updated analysis of the AHCA, incorporating the first two manager’s amendments, finding that, similar to the original bill, 24 million more consumers would be uninsured by 2026. However, the amended bill would result in only $150 billion in federal deficit reductions between 2017 and 2026, less than half of the projected savings from the original bill. CBO analysis: http://bit.ly/2nclU4i

ACA Implementation

  • On March 20, HHS announced the launch of a new webpage highlighting its administrative actions to empower patients and “relieve the burden of the current healthcare law.” Press release: http://bit.ly/2ncEQzK Webpage: http://bit.ly/2ncKlP8
  • On March 23, HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) sent a letter to Sens. Warren (D-MA) and Murray (D-WA) announcing that the OIG will initiate a review of HHS’ “decisions related to halting (and resuming, as applicable) paid advertisements, email, social media, and other outreach efforts related to Marketplace enrollment in 2017.” Press release: http://bit.ly/2nXmKFu Letter: http://bit.ly/2nXk2jj


On March 22, Sens. Brown (D-OH) and Portman (R-OH) sent a letter to HHS Secretary Price providing comment on the 2018 60-Day Notice and Draft Call Letter and requesting that CMS adjust certain data integrity measures used in calculating its Star Ratings. Press release with text of letter: http://bit.ly/2nlCUqI


On March 24, CMS released an informational bulletin updating the federal poverty level standards for 2017, which reflect the 1.3 percent change in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) between calendar years 2015 and 2016. The poverty level for a family or household of 4 is $24,600 for 2017. Bulletin: http://bit.ly/2nXcvRA

New Payment and Delivery Models

  • On March 21, CMS released three issue briefs on the Financial Alignment Initiatives for Medicare-Medicaid Enrollees, highlighting early findings with respect to care coordination, special populations, and beneficiary experiences. Issue briefs: http://bit.ly/2nl5po9 and http://bit.ly/2nkWLWY and http://bit.ly/2nkOy4O
  • Also on March 21, CMS published an interim final rule with comment (IFR) delaying the effective date of a final rule modifying the mandatory bundled payment program for hip and knee replacements and the establishing the mandatory cardiac care bundle from March 21 to May 20. Comments are due by April 19. IFR: http://bit.ly/2nkVY8v
  • On March 23, CMS released a document highlighting 2016 Fast Facts on the Comprehensive Primary Care model. Fast facts: http://bit.ly/2nflpXj

Health IT

On March 24, HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) announced that it is seeking scientific information submissions from the public to inform their review on Telehealth for Acute and Chronic Care Consultations. Submissions are due by April 24. Notice: http://bit.ly/2nvO7Fw

Behavioral Health

  • On March 21, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced that it is accepting applications for up to $1 million in Resiliency in Communities after Stress and Trauma grants, which would assist high-risk youth and families that have recently faced civil unrest through the implementation of evidence-based, violence prevention, and community youth engagement programs. Applications are due by May 17. Press release: http://bit.ly/2odPgOY
  • On March 23, SAMHSA announced that it is accepting applications for up to $110 million in grants promoting the integration of primary and behavioral health care. Applications are due by May 17. Press release: http://bit.ly/2mZeccf


  • On March 21, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report exploring trends in infant mortality in the United States from the years 2005 to 2014, finding that declines in infant mortality rates were observed for all race and Hispanic-origin subgroups except among American Indian or Alaska Native persons. Report: http://bit.ly/2mVAhIt
  • Also on March 21, National Academy of Medicine released a publication presenting a streamlined framework of eight policy directions consisting of four priority actions and four essential infrastructure needs to advance American health, health care, and scientific progress. Press release: http://bit.ly/2nkRRJi
  • On March 22, AHRQ published a brief finding that 5.8 million children ages 0 to 17 (7.9 percent) lacked a usual source of care in 2014. Brief: http://bit.ly/2nsONvr



In today’s political environment, changes to healthcare policy are fast and frequent. Contact Sirona Strategies, DC-based health care policy experts.