Legislative Activity

This week, Sylvia Mathews Burwell is expected to be sworn in as the next Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). While Burwell has been applauded for running a textbook campaign for confirmation, capped off with 24 Republicans voting in favor of her confirmation, her duties implementing health care reform ahead of the midterm elections are expected to draw more political conflict than cooperation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is eager to place legislation on the floor regarding veterans’ access to health care, with some sources speculating he could do so as early as this week. Last week, Senators Bernie Sanders and John McCain struck a deal on a framework that allows veterans experiencing long wait times or significant distances from Veterans Affairs facilities to seek private doctors outside of the system. The framework also allows for the immediate dismissal of executives and administrators for poor performance, as well as for the construction of new facilities and funding for additional doctors and nurses. The House is also slated to consider legislation regarding veterans’ access to care.

Committees in both chambers will be marking up legislation this week. The Senate Appropriation Committee’s Subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies will mark up its appropriations bill. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, meanwhile, will tackle legislation on regulatory transparency for new medical therapies, federal standards and enforcement activities related to prescription drug diversion and abuse, and the reauthorization of the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Monday, June 9: The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold an oversight hearing titled “Data Manipulation and Access to VA Health Care: Testimony from GAO, IG, and VA.”
  • Tuesday, June 10: The House Committee on Ways and Means’ Subcommittee on Health and Subcommittee on Oversight will hold a joint hearing on the verification system for income and eligibility for tax credits under the 2010 health care law and the likely effect on the 2015 tax-filing season.
  • Wednesday, June 11: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health, will hold a hearing titled “21st Century Cures: Examining the Role of Incentives in Advancing Treatments and Cures for Patients.”
  • Thursday, June 12: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health, will hold a hearing titled “The President’s Health Care Law Does Not Equal Health Care Access. The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “An Examination of Bureaucratic Barriers to Care for Veterans.”


ONC: Interoperability Framework

On June 6, the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) of Health Information Technology released a policy paper that describes ONC’s vision and framework for achieving a nationwide interoperable health IT infrastructure. The paper states that the current three-year agenda involves sending, receiving, finding, and utilizing health information to improve health care quality. The six-year agenda focuses on using information to improve health care quality and lower costs. By year ten, ONC seeks to enable more standardized data collection, sharing, and aggregation to promote patient-centered outcomes research.

CBO: Report on Health Reform and the Deficit

A new report published jointly by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that only about four million people will pay the penalty for not having health insurance in 2016. This estimate is down two million from the original estimate in September 2012 of six million, and will decrease the amount of revenue expected to be raised by the penalty. The report explains that while 30 million people will still lack coverage, 23 million will qualify for one or more penalty exemptions. The report also raises questions about the ability of the CBO to accurately score the health reform law due to ongoing delays of key provisions.