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.


Two-Year Budget Deal Passes Senate, Signed by President

The Senate passed a two-year bipartisan budget deal (H.R. 3877) to increase budget caps, raise the nation’s borrowing limit, and create a path to fiscal year (FY) 2020 government funding. The package was quickly signed into law by President Trump. The measure passed the Senate by a vote of 67-28, with 23 Republicans joining five Democrats in opposition to the bill. It would increase spending by $320 billion above current levels and lift the debt ceiling for two years; the bill also includes $77 billion in cuts and revenue raisers to help offset its cost. It adds $1.7 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years in comparison to the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration that would have otherwise taken place in the absence of an agreement. As part of the negotiations, lawmakers have agreed to not insert any poison pill policies into individual appropriations bills considered before the end of the fiscal year on September 30. The legislation had previously been agreed to by the House of Representatives. The House has already passed 10 spending bills, while the Senate Appropriations Committee plans to begin voting appropriations legislation when the Senate reconvenes early next month. Congress is in recess through the month of August and is scheduled to return after Labor Day on September 9.

Congress Passes Extension of Mental Health Demonstration Program

Congress has passed a short-term extension of funding for the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) demonstration program through September 13, 2019. The clinics, which are located across eight states particularly impacted by the opioid crisis, receive matched federal funding through the Medicaid program to treat mental health and substance abuse. The Empowering Beneficiaries, Ensuring Access, and Strengthening Accountability Act of 2019 (H.R. 3253) would provide an extra $60 million in funding and was passed by the Senate on July 25. The House agreed to the Senate’s amendment by unanimous consent last week. Bipartisan leadership of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce issued a statement following passage of the bill urging policymakers to support a longer extension of the CCBHC demonstration program in order to provide time to fully evaluate the program and its impact in responding to the opioid epidemic.

WH Announces Plans for Drug Importation

The Trump Administration has announced plans for a forthcoming policy that would allow for the importation of medicines from other countries in an attempt to reduce to cost of prescription drugs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will issue a regulation to allow states and pharmacies to submit drug importation pilot programs for approval. Officials did not outline a timeline for when the regulation would go into effect. Republican lawmakers praised the President’s efforts to lower drug prices while stressing the need to continue to ensure the safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical products.

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