Hart Health Strategies provides a comprehensive policy briefing on a weekly basis. This in-depth health policy briefing is sent out at the beginning of each week. The health policy briefing recaps the previous week and previews the week ahead. It alerts clients to upcoming congressional hearings, newly introduced bills, regulatory announcements, and implementation activity related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and other health laws.


State of Government Funding Negotiations Remain Unclear

Reports from late last week indicated that the lawmakers tasked with negotiating a government funding and border security deal were close to reaching a bipartisan agreement that would include less than $2 billion for physical barriers along the southern border. While this is far short of the $5.7 billion that President Trump has requested for a border wall, the White House was reportedly preparing to accept the deal. Over the weekend, however, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) stated that congressional talks are stalled. Negotiators had set a goal of completing a deal by Monday. Formal filing of legislation is still possible today, according to a Democratic aide. Because of the House’s 72-hour rule, which requires that a bill be released three days before a floor vote, this is the latest point at which the bill could be finalized without necessitating a short-term continuing resolution (CR) when government funding expires on Feb. 15. While an agreement between Congress and the White House would avert a new partial government shutdown, it is unclear whether the President would still use executive action to secure additional wall funding and circumvent the approval of Congress. Such a decision could trigger court challenges or votes of congressional disapproval.

President Trump Delivers Third SOTU Address

President Trump outlined several of his health care priorities for the coming year in his State of the Union address last week. The President discussed childhood cancer, stating that there have been no new therapies developed in decades. His forthcoming budget request will include $500 million over the next decade for childhood cancer research. The President did not specify whether the White House budget would be adding to what the National Cancer Institute (NCI) already spends on pediatric cancer research.

Congressional Democrats have criticized this figure as inadequate, given the NCI’s $6 billion annual budget.

The President also announced his plan to reduce new HIV infections by 75 percent over the next five years and 90 percent over the next 10 years, with the goal of ending new HIV transmissions by 2030. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would increase investments through programs like the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program in the 48 counties in the nation that are considered geographic HIV-transmission hotspots, use data to identify where HIV is spreading most rapidly, and launch a new HIV HealthForce and program through community health centers to target high-risk populations. The President did not offer any details as to how the plan would be paid for.

During his speech, President Trump also emphasized his support for protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions and celebrated the success of his administration’s drug pricing strategy. He asked Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that addresses “global freeloading” and delivers real price transparency for Americans. The White House released additional detail including his commitment to take action to increase price transparency to prevent surprise billing.

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