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.


Pelosi Elected Speaker for the 117th Congress

The 117th Congress convened on Sunday, January 3. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was re-elected Speaker of the House for the fourth time by a vote of 216-209. Pelosi did not face a challenger, but several democratic members voted ‘present’ or voted for others instead of supporting her bid for Speaker. Speaker Pelosi has suggested that this will be her last term as House Speaker. She was first elected Speaker in 2007 and is the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House.

Congress to Certify Electoral College Results on Wednesday

Congress will meet on Wednesday to officially certify the results of the November presidential election. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has stated that he will join several House Republicans who plan to object to the certification of electoral college votes from several battleground states. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and nearly a dozen republican senators said that they will vote against accepting the election results until there is a 10-day audit. If both a House member and a Senate member object, the House and Senate will each have two hours to debate the objection followed by votes regarding whether to uphold the objection. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has recognized Biden’s victory and is encouraging members to avoid a fight over certifying the vote. McConnell has also stated that he will allow the President-elect’s cabinet nominees to be considered by the upper chamber. They “aren’t all going to pass on a voice vote, and they aren’t all going to make it, but I will put them on the floor,” McConnell said during a recent interview.

Lawmakers Debate Increased Stimulus Checks for Individuals

Just prior to the start of the new year, Congress passed, and the President signed the second-largest economic rescue package in U.S. history as a part of year-end spending legislation. The $1.4 trillion spending bill will fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2021 and was attached to a $900 billion COVID-19 relief measure. In addition to the appropriations measures (which included additional funding for the Provider Relief Fund (more below), the bill also included provisions related to surprise medical billing and extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) (including allowing for second loans in certain circumstances). In response to President Trump and others seeking to increase the amount of stimulus payments to individuals from $600 to $2,000, the House of Representatives quickly convened to pass in bipartisan manner legislation that would increase the checks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, blocked an attempt by Minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to adopt the House-passed CASH Act by unanimous consent in the Senate. Instead, McConnell plans for the chamber to consider increased stimulus checks alongside measures related to election integrity and repeal of social media liability protections – issues that are supported by President Trump, but controversial.

Congress Provides More Funds for the Provider Relief Fund

On December 27, the President signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which among other things, included $3 billion for the Provider Relief Fund (PRF), along with additional language: (1) clarifying that a parent organization can transfer funds to a subsidiary (under certain circumstances, even for Targeted Distributions), (2) describing how a provider may calculate lost revenues (i.e., that the provider may use the calculation using the FAQ guidance from June 2020, including the difference between such provider’s budgeted and actual revenue budget if such budget had been established and approved prior to March 27, 2020), and (3) specifying that not less than 85 percent of the unobligated balances available as of December 27, and any funds recovered from health care providers after December 27, shall be for any successor to the Phase 3 General Distribution allocation to make payments to eligible health care providers based on applications that consider financial losses and changes in operating expenses occurring in the third or fourth quarter of calendar year 2020, or the first quarter of calendar year 2021. As part of the updates to the FAQs on December 28, HHS noted that the calculation for determining the payment amount for Phase 3 was (1) 2 percent of annual revenue from patient care, if such funds had not already been received in Phase 1 or 2; and (2) up to 88 percent of their reported losses and net change in their operating expenses from patient care from the first half of 2020. Given the change to calculation of lost revenue, which primarily applies to the Reporting Requirements, the reporting portal, which was scheduled to be available by mid-January of 2021, may be further delayed.

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