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.


Additional Proposals Forthcoming as Surprise Billing Agreement Reached

House Education and Labor Committee Democrats Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) and Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.) are circulating a Dear Colleague letter on the issue of surprise insurance gaps exclusively through an independent dispute resolution (IDR) process in the case of out-of-network billing disputes between providers and payers. The IDR process would have no dollar threshold and would allow an arbiter to consider median in-network payment rates. Rep. Morelle has said that he estimates the proposal would save $15 billion over the next decade. Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) has not signaled whether he supports the proposal or plans to hold a markup. It’s unclear how this effort, along with a surprise billing measure expected to soon be introduced from the House Ways and Means Committee, will impact the deal reached between the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committees. Leaders of the two panels announced that they had reached a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019 over the weekend. The bill will address surprise insurance gaps and provide for a new system of IDR, raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21, and increase competition in the pharmaceutical market. Walden stated that if the legislation can gain the support of House and Senate leadership it will likely be included in an end-of-the-year package to fund the federal government. The White House announced last week that the President is “comfortable” with a surprise billing solution that includes IDR, depending on how much money the compromise would save. The administration had previously expressed concerns that the process could be disruptive and burdensome.

FDA Nomination Advances to Full Senate

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has advanced the President’s nominee for Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Dr. Stephen Hahn. Hahn’s nomination was approved with bipartisan support by a vote of 18-5, with Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) voting against the nomination citing concerns about the nominee’s plan to address youth vaping rates. During his confirmation hearing, the Texas oncologist and MD Anderson executive faced scrutiny from panel members on both sides of the aisle regarding his position on the administration’s reversal of a proposal to ban flavored e-cigarettes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed for cloture on the nomination on Thursday, setting up a vote on the FDA nominee for this week. The FDA has been without a permanent leader since Scott Gottlieb’s departure from the agency in April.

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