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.


PPP Application Deadline Extended

On Saturday, the President signed a bill that had passed the House and Senate earlier in the week to extend the application deadline for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) last week. The bill includes no substantive policy changes to the PPP beyond the date extension to August 8. While the program technically closed to new applications on June 30, participating banks should be able to start processing applications again. Approximately $130 billion remains in unspent money under the PPP. Lawmakers are still negotiating what adjustments should be made to the program in the next phase of pandemic relief.

House to Continue Allowing Proxy Voting Procedures

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has extended the chamber’s emergency procedures that permit lawmakers to cast floor votes and votes in committee markups remotely by proxy through mid-August. The initial 45-day period provided for under H.Res. 965, which was adopted in May, was drawing to a close, and Pelosi’s decision will extend proxy-voting procedures through August 18. In her announcement Pelosi referenced a notification from the Sergeant at Arms that the public health emergency due to the coronavirus situation remains in effect.

House Passes Bill to Strengthen ACA

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 1425) last week to strengthen Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies, incentivize states to adopt Medicaid programs, and lower the cost of prescription drugs last week. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act passed by a vote of 234-179. The bill would expand tax credits for coverage on the exchange and cap premium charges at 8.5 percent of an individual’s income. It would permanently extend federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), allow states to cover children whose family income exceeds eligibility thresholds, and block the White House from implementing its expansion of short-term, limitedduration health plans. The legislation provides $10 billion for an “Improve Health Insurance Availability Fund” to support states in setting up reinsurance programs or providing financial assistance to people in the individual market and $200 million to states looking to establish their own insurance exchanges. It would also allow individuals living in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to access subsidized insurance plans. The cost of these measures would be offset by a provision to allow the government to negotiate the price of certain pharmaceuticals, as proposed in H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act. The bill combines legislation (H.R. 987 and H.R. 3) that previously passed the House but was never taken up by the Senate and that the President has threatened to veto.

Senate Passes E-Cig Legislation

The Senate passed legislation (S. 1253) by unanimous consent last week that aims to prevent the online sale of e-cigarettes to minors. The Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act would apply to e-cigarettes the same regulations that are already in place for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco – requiring retailers to verify the age of customers for all purchases, an adult with ID to be present for delivery, appropriate labeling of shipping packages, and compliance with state and local tax requirements. The measure is similar to legislation (H.R. 3942) previously passed by the House of Representatives in November.

Pallone Investigates Potential COVID-19 Test Price Gouging

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) has written to a group of 11 COVID-19 test makers requesting billing information regarding what patients are being charged for their coronavirus tests. His panel has received reports of bills that range from $300 to $6,000. Medicare currently pays $100 per diagnostic test. Pallone requests information on the billing of issuers and individuals for all items and services related to diagnostic testing for the detection of COVID-19, and for items and services related to serological testing used to detect antibodies against COVID-19 by July 10.

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