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.


President Signs Medicare EO

President Trump signed an executive order on October 3 titled “Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation’s Seniors,” aimed at strengthening the Medicare program and Medicare Advantage (MA) offerings. During his announcement, the President stated that Medicare-for-All would end Medicare as we know it, promising that, “as long as I’m President, no one will lay a hand on your Medicare benefits.” He further touted his administration’s accomplishments on various health care policies.

Among other things, the EO includes provisions to increase transparency, streamline the process between FDA approval and CMS coverage for new technologies, expand supplemental benefits in MA, increase market-based reimbursement in fee-for-service Medicare, step up efforts on fraud, waste, and abuse, and remove barriers to private contracting. As for timing, the EO does not contain any immediate changes to Medicare policy. Rather, it directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue regulations within specified timeframes to accomplish the policy goals outlined in the EO.

Many expected the EO to contain language related to prescription drug pricing, but it did not. However, in his remarks, the President did state that drug prices must come down and mentioned several prescription drug policies. He predicted that prescription drug importation from Canada and other countries is coming “soon.”

Democrats reacted quickly, with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) calling the EO a “thinly veiled effort to disguise his Administration’s dismal record on health care and protecting seniors.” Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Schumer (NY) took to Twitter, stating that Republicans “claim to care about pre-existing condition protections but they keep sabotaging our health care law.”

All eyes now turn to HHS, which is tasked with a heavy load of regulatory homework, most of it with a deadline of one year from the EO’s signing.

Reps. Thornberry and Collins to Leave Congress

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) announced last week that he will not seek reelection in 2020. Rep. Thornberry currently serves as the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. He is the sixth Texas Republican to announce his retirement this year. He has served in Congress since 1994. His seat representing the state’s 13th congressional district is expected to be retained by Republicans.

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) submitted his resignation from Congress last week, one day ahead of his guilty plea to federal insider trading charges. Collins won reelection last fall despite being under indictment but was barred by party rules from serving on any committees. Republicans are expected to keep control of his seat representing New York’s 27th congressional district.

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