Legislative Activity

Republicans Postpone Reconciliation Actions Until After August Recess

With the August District Work Period only weeks away, House Committee on the Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) announced this past week that the House Committee on the Budget would not act on reconciliation until after the lawmakers reconvene in September. The three House committees and two Senate committees with health care jurisdiction are not expected to report their proposals until after the August recess.

Some Republican lawmakers have been proponents of using this fast-track budget maneuver to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), while others have questioned whether this process could be better used to achieve other policy objectives, such as tax reform. The budget resolution provided for a July 24 deadline for the committees with health care jurisdiction to determine a repeal plan, though there are no consequences for missing this deadline. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has supported the use of reconciliation to dismantle portions of the ACA, but has stated that there is no definitive timeline.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Wednesday, July 22: The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “To Receive the Secretary’s Testimony Regarding the Pending VA Health Care Budget Shortfall and System Shutdown.”
  • Wednesday, July 22: The House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing with the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) to discuss hospital payment issues, rural health issues, and beneficiary access to care.
  • Wednesday, July 22: The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health will hold a markup of pending health care legislation.
  • Wednesday, July 22: The Senate Special Committee on Aging will hold a hearing titled “The Doctor’s Not In: Combating Medicare Provider Enrollment Fraud.”
  • Wednesday, July 22: The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a markup of pending legislation. The following bills are on the agenda: S. 1493, Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2015; S. 1203, 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery and Other Improvements Act; S. 1028, Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability Act of 2015; S. 833, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Facility Earthquake Protection and Improvement Act; S. 627, a bill to prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from awarding bonuses to employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs with respect to whom an adverse finding has been made by the Secretary, and for other purposes; and S. 469, Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act of 2015.
  • Thursday, July 23: The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) will hold a hearing titled “Achieving the Promise of Health Information Technology: Information Blocking and Potential Solutions.”
  • Friday, July 24: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing titled “An Overdue Checkup: Examining the ACA’s State Insurance Marketplaces.”

Regulatory Activity

CMS Proposes Sweeping Changes for LTC Facilities

On Monday, July 13, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule titled “Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Reform of Requirements for Long-Term Care Facilities.” This rule, which was released on the same day as the decennial White House Conference on Aging, proposes to comprehensively update the Medicare and Medicaid conditions of participation for long-term care facilities. Of note, this proposal includes several provisions which would support the use of electronic health records and electronic data sharing in care delivery and transitions of care. These proposals are part of the agency’s larger initiative to support the adoption of health information technology and to promote health information exchange.

The long-term care industry has voiced concerns about the costs associated with complying with this proposed rule. CMS estimates that the industry as a whole will pay over $729 million to meet the requirements during the first year and approximately $638 million per year after that.

The deadline for comments is September 14.

Other Activity

MedPAC Releases 2015 Data Book

On Thursday, July 16, MedPAC released its annual Data Book titled “Health Care Spending and the Medicare Program.” This report builds off of the Commission’s March and June reports to Congress and includes tables and figures on: national health care and Medicare spending; beneficiary demographics; dual-eligible beneficiaries; quality of care in the Medicare program; Medicare beneficiary and other payer liability; access to care in various provider settings; Medicare Advantage; and prescription drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries.