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.


Congress Passes Stopgap Spending Bill, Takes Final Votes Before Midterm Elections

President Joe Biden signed a stopgap spending bill (H.R. 6833) on Friday, averting a government shutdown hours before the end of fiscal year 2022. The continuing resolution (CR) extends federal government funding until December 16 and reauthorizes medical product user fees at the Food and Drug Administration for five years. It includes $12 billion in new assistance to Ukraine, $2 billion for U.S. disaster relief, $2.5 billion for New Mexico wildfires, and $1 billion in home heating assistance. It also includes language to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to access $35 billion in disaster relief funds to quickly aid victims of Hurricane Ian. The CR was passed by the Senate on Thursday in a 75-25 vote and by the House of Representatives on Friday in an 230-201 vote. Republicans who voted in opposition to the bill reportedly favored a CR that extended government funding into next year to give the GOP a better chance to enact its policy priorities should Republicans win back the House majority this November. Last week’s votes were the last either chamber of Congress plans to conduct before the midterm elections. Congressional appropriators are expected to restart negotiations on top-line spending levels ahead of consideration of an omnibus package. A number of measures are already being floated by lawmakers for inclusion in the year-end spending bill, including the PREVENT Pandemics Act (S. 3799), revisions to the FDA’s accelerated approval process, measures to increase clinical trial diversity, an overhaul of diagnostics, dietary supplement, and cosmetics regulations, a bipartisan mental health initiative, extension of insulin affordability requirements to the commercial market, funding for long-COVID research, and a Medicare payment fix to avert impending cuts to provider reimbursement.

House Passes Mobile Health Clinic, Mental Health Bills

The House of Representatives passed the Improving Trauma Systems and Emergency Care Act (H.R. 8163) and the Maximizing Outcomes through Better Investments in Lifesaving Equipment for (MOBILE) Health Care Act (S. 958) last week. H.R. 8163 reauthorizes trauma care programs for five years and improves coordination during declared emergencies. The MOBILE Health Care Act would allow community health centers to use federal funding to establish mobile health care delivery sites in rural and underserved communities. The House also passed the Mental Health Matters Act (H.R. 7780) last week. The legislation would increase the number of elementary and secondary school-based mental health professionals and would allow education systems to connect with local trauma informed support and mental health systems. It would also provide the Department of Labor with more resources and greater authority to ensure compliance with mental health parity laws.

CBO Report on Reducing Prices for Commercial Insurers

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released a policy brief on approaches to reduce what commercial insurers pay for hospital and physician services. The brief suggests that increased price transparency and competition among healthcare providers could reduce the prices paid for health care services by commercial insurers. CBO also projects that capping the growth rate of health care prices could reduce the amount insurers pay for hospital and physician services by more than 5% over the next decade. The brief attributes commercial health plan premium increases to the prices paid by commercial insurers for health care services, which are rising more quickly than the prices paid by public health insurance programs. CBO says these rising prices are driven by hospitals’ and physicians’ market power and consumers’ and employers’ lack of sensitivity to those prices. The policy brief discusses the advantages of plans with certain benefit designs and the option of taxing health care services whose prices exceed a maximum amount to encourage providers to reduce their prices.

Education & Labor Panel Releases No Right to Deny Care Report

House Education and Labor Committee Democrats have released a new report discussing the potential implications of the Braidwood v. Becerra federal district court decision. The report asserts that the ruling could restrict which forms of preventive care must be covered by insurers. The report titled No Right to Deny Care examines how the Affordable Care Act’s preventive care coverage requirement has helped provide access to preventive care for the more than 14 million people with health coverage through the individual marketplace, as well as a vast majority of the people with coverage through their employment.

Joint Economic Committee Measures Cost of Opioid Crisis

The Joint Economic Committee of Congress has released a new analysis of the cost of the ongoing opioid epidemic. The Committee estimates that the opioid crisis cost the U.S. nearly $1.5 trillion in 2020, a nearly 50% increase of $487 billion over 2019. This cost includes expenses for health care, criminal justice, lost productivity, lower quality of life, and the projected value of lives lost. The data also indicates that 2020 and 2021 saw the highest number of fatal opioid overdoses ever reported – with 69,061 deaths in 2020 and 80,926 deaths in 2021.

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