Legislative Activity

Health-Focused Reconciliation Recommendations Clear Three Committees

Last week, three House committees considered and passed reconciliation recommendations that included health-related language. The House Committee on Ways and Means approved language that would repeal the individual and employer mandates, the excise taxes on medical devices and high cost employer-sponsored health coverage (also known as the Cadillac tax), and the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The House Committee on Energy and Commerce passed recommendations that would repeal and rescind unobligated funds from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, forbid federal funding to states for payments to Planned Parenthood for one year, and provide for $235 million in additional funding to community health centers. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce agreed to language that would repeal the requirement of larger employers to automatically enroll their employees in health coverage.

These recommendations have been forwarded to the House Committee on the Budget, which may consider the language as early as this week.

Senate Committee To Examine Veterans’ Health Care Legislation

On Tuesday, October 6, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Pending Health Care and Benefits Legislation.” The following bills are on the agenda: S. 717, the Community Provider Readiness Recognition Act of 2015, which designates certain non-Department mental health providers as providers who have specific knowledge on mental health care for members of the Armed Forces and veterans; S. 1676, the DOCs for Veterans Act of 2015, which raises the number of graduate medical education positions that treat veterans and improves compensation for providers of Veterans Integrated Service Networks of the Department; S. 1754, the Veterans Court of Appeals Support Act of 2015, which makes permanent the increased number of judges presiding over the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims; S. 1885, the Veterans Housing Stability Act of 2015, which provides for assistance and benefits to homeless veterans, veterans at risk of becoming homeless, and veterans occupying temporary housing; S. 2013, the Los Angeles Homeless Veterans Leasing Act of 2015, which authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enter into leases at the Los Angeles Campus of the Department; and S. 2022, To amend title 38, United States Code, to increase the amount of special pension for Medical of Honor recipients, and for other purposes.

House Committee To Review Drug Abuse Bills

On Thursday, October 8, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a hearing titled “Examining Legislative Proposals to Combat Our Nation’s Drug Abuse Crisis.” The following legislation will be considered: H.R. ____, the Improving Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women Act of 2015, which reauthorizes residential treatment programs for pregnant and postpartum women and provides for a pilot program to promote innovative service delivery models for the same population; H.R. ____, the Co-Prescribing to Reduce Overdoses Act of 2015, which provides for a grant program for co-prescribing opioid overdose reversal drugs; H.R. 2536, the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act, which allows access to medication-assisted therapy; H.R. 2805, the Heroin and Prescription Opioid Abuse Prevention, Education, and Enforcement Act of 2015, which addresses prescription opioid abuse and heroin use through development of best describing practices, amendments to the Controlled Substance Monitoring Program, reauthorization of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program, awareness programs, and naloxone demonstration grants; H.R. 2872, the Opioid Addiction Treatment Modernization Act, which seeks to modernize the treatment of opioid addiction through amending the Controlled Substances Act; H.R. 3014, the Medical Controlled Substances Transportation Act of 2015, which authorizes providers to transport controlled substances from practice setting to practice setting and a disaster area, pursuant to an agreement with the Attorney General; and H.R. 3537, the Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2015, which details how controlled substance analogues are to be regulated.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, October 6: The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Pending Health Care and Benefits Legislation.”
  • Wednesday, October 7: The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “A Call for System-Wide Change: Evaluating the Independent Assessment of the Veterans Health Administration.”
  • Wednesday, October 7: The Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing titled “National Institutes of Health: Investing in a Healthier Future.”
  • Thursday, October 8: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled “Examining Legislative Proposals to Combat Our Nation’s Drug Abuse Crisis.”
  • Thursday, October 8: The House Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing titled “Planned Parenthood Exposed: Examining Abortion Procedures and Medical Ethics at the Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider.”

Regulatory Activity

CMS Requests Input on MIPS Implementation

On Thursday, October 1, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a request for information titled “Request for Information Regarding Implementation of the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System, Promotion of Alternative Payment Models, and Incentive Payments for Participation in Eligible Alternative Payment Models.” CMS is requesting public and stakeholder input in order to inform the agency’s implementation of Section 101 of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA).

Of note, MACRA repealed the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula for updating the physician fee schedule and established the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), a new methodology that will tie annual adjustments to quality, resource use, clinical practice improvement activities, and meaningful use of electronic health records. CMS stated that it will use the feedback received from the CY 2016 physician fee schedule proposed rule and this request for information to develop its proposed policies for MIPS. The deadline for responses is November 2.

Risk Corridor Proration Rate Announced

On Thursday, October 1, CMS announced the “Risk Corridors Payment Proration Rate for 2014.” The Affordable Care Act established three premium stabilization programs, including the risk corridor program, to help ensure a stable, competitive, and fair market during the initial years of the health insurance marketplace. CMS announced that insurers submitted for $2.87 billion in risk corridor payments in 2014. Insurers, however, will only receive $362 million, resulting in a proration rate of 12.6 percent. CMS will begin collecting risk corridor charges this November and will begin remitting risk corridor payments to insurers starting in December.