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.


House Panels Complete Individual Portions of the American Rescue Plan

House committees have completed their work in translating President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan into legislative text. The individual pieces of legislation will be included as a part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that is expected to be voted on by the House of Representatives during the week of February 22, after the House Budget Committee assembles the individual measures into a single reconciliation bill and all the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scores are available. Democratic leadership have promised to enact the package prior to the March 14 expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved their legislation on Friday by a vote of 30-25. The bill includes more than $46 billion for COVID-19 national testing efforts and $20 billion to improve vaccine distribution. The measure includes funding to incentivize states to expand their Medicaid programs, would permit new mothers to stay on the program for up to a year, and eliminate a cap on Medicaid drug rebates beginning in 2023. The measure also includes funding to support research and the public health workforce. The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) cost estimate for the reconciliation recommendations of the Energy and Commerce Committee can be found here.

The House Ways and Means Committee measure was passed by a 24-18 party-line vote on Thursday. It contains a provision to subsidize 85% of insurance premiums for individuals currently eligible for COBRA, and provide employers with a payroll tax credit to help extend COBRA coverage. The legislation also aims to cap the cost of coverage in the individual health insurance market through increasing Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax credits for 2021 and 2022. ACA plans would be free for people making up to 150% of the federal poverty level and for people collecting unemployment insurance. People making up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level would be eligible to receive subsidies; their premiums would be capped at 8.5% of their income. The bill also includes additional direct payments of $1,400 to individuals and an extension of temporary federal unemployment benefits. The CBO cost estimate for this committee’s reconciliation recommendations can be found here. The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved legislation along a 17-2 party line vote containing $13.5 billion for veterans health care services in response to the increased number of individuals seeking care previously delayed because of the pandemic. The bill includes $272 million for processing backlogged benefits claims, $750 million for state home facilities, $100 million for upgrades to VA information technology, and $400 million for veteran retraining programs. The CBO cost estimate can be found here.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee also completed its work on its component of the package last week, and the CBO cost estimate for that package can be found here. The bill contains $350 billion in aid for state and local governments, split between states receiving 60% of funding and localities receiving 40% of funding. The money would be distributed within 60 days to locations based on revenue lost as a result of the pandemic.

The legislation reported by the House Small Business Committee, with the CBO cost estimate here, would increase funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by $7.25 billion. The committee’s legislation would also create a new program to support the restaurant industry and includes additional funding for the Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance program.

The House Education and Labor bill (CBO cost estimate here), passed by a 27-21 party line vote, would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, though it remains to be seen whether this provision will qualify for the reconciliation process under the Senate’s Byrd rule. The bill also includes funding to reopen schools and expand access to health insurance.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure (CBO cost estimate here) and Agriculture committees (CBO cost estimate here) also advanced their components of the administration’s COVID relief proposal. The Transportation Committee voted 39-25 in support of a bill containing more than $40 billion in aid, while the Agriculture Committee approved by a vote of 25-23 a $16 billion bill aimed at food purchases, nutrition aid, and supply chain assistance.

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