Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

SURPRISE BILLING PROGRESS DRIVES THE WEEK

Legislation to address surprise medical bills is moving forward this week, as two House committees mark up their own plans to protect patients.

After progress stalled at the end of last year, the House Ways and Means Committee jump-started it by announcing it would move forward with its proposal. The committee plans to take up the bipartisan bill Wednesday.

Tuesday, the Education and Labor Committee will enter the fray with its own bill. Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Ranking Member Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., released the proposal last week.

The key point of contention among the different plans is the mechanism used to resolve billing disputes. The Ways and Means approach relies on independent arbitration when insurers and providers cannot negotiate a solution on their own. A bipartisan agreement by the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees uses a benchmark payment rate. The new Education and Labor proposal appears to hew more closely to the Energy and Commerce approach.

House leaders want to work out the differences among the plans by May or earlier, ahead of a self-imposed deadline when several federal health programs expire. It’s not yet clear how they might reach that consensus, but policymakers do believe they will ultimately succeed. Continue Reading

The Weekly Hill Update

Washington D.C. The capitol, the seat of the government of the United States.Below is the Federal Policy team’s weekly preview, posted when Congress is in session.

HEADLINES

• Congressional committees will begin reviewing President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget, out today.

• After acquitting Trump in his impeachment trial, the Senate will resume voting on his judicial nominees.

• Democrats in New Hampshire will choose their nominee to challenge Trump.

HOUSE

  • The House will be in session tonight through Thursday; the agenda includes legislation aimed at advancing an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in order to heighten judicial scrutiny of sex-based discrimination.
  • The Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday will take up its plan to address surprise medical billing; the Education and Labor Committee tomorrow will take up its own plan.
  • Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will testify on monetary policy and the state of the economy Tuesday at the Financial Services Committee.
  • The full list of this week’s House committee activity can be found here.

SENATE

  • The Senate plans to vote on a slate of Trump judicial nominees.
  • Powell on Wednesday will testify on monetary policy at the Senate Banking Committee.
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Thursday will testify on the department’s FY2021 budget.
  • The current list of Senate committee activity can be found here.

WHITE HOUSE

  • Tonight, Trump will hold a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, ahead of the Democratic primary tomorrow.
  • Wednesday, he will host Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno at the White House.
  • Friday, Trump will attend a meeting with the National Border Patrol Council.

Key House Democrats Introduce Sweeping Climate Plan

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., released a far-reaching climate proposal that would require economywide net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and mandate that utilities generate electricity from clean energy sources.

The draft legislation, called the CLEAN Future Act, would create federal subsidies and also new standards for the electricity, transportation, industrial and building sectors. It also includes provisions on environmental justice, methane emissions, hazardous pollutants and worker development programs.

A committee-produced section-by-section outline of the climate proposal can be found here.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J.

Pallone said his committee would hold a series of hearings this year related to the draft legislation. He also requested stakeholder feedback, with the goal of introducing legislation by the end of 2020.

Republicans on the committee panned the effort as partisan, calling it a “politics-over-progress approach.”

Pallone’s challenge in developing legislation this year will be generating broad support from within his own party, especially from progressive lawmakers who advocate for more aggressive measures to address climate change, such as eliminating the use of fossil fuels.

For example, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., last year introduced the Green New Deal, a nonbinding resolution that calls for more strict greenhouse gas reductions. It has 98 co-sponsors among House Democrats.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

Similarly, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is pushing a $16 trillion climate plan that would nationalize electricity production, eliminate fossil fuels in electricity generation by 2030 and immediately ban hydraulic fracking.

Pallone said his proposal is more politically realistic and economically achievable. His proposal and effort to develop legislation has the support of senior members of his committee, including Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., chairman of the Climate Change Subcommittee, and Bobby Rush, D-Ill., chairman of the Energy Subcommittee.

U.S. electricity generation is responsible for 28% of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Emissions inventory. The CLEAN Future Act would require that all retail electricity providers increase clean electricity supply by 2022 – ramping up to a required 100% by 2050.

Pallone’s plan would establish a credit trading program for providers to buy, sell or trade credits to comply with those requirements.

For the transportation sector, the proposal focuses on increasing efficiencies to meet the emissions goals. Using subsidies and grants to ease the transition to electric vehicles, the plan aims to drive advances in low-carbon alternative transportation fuels under the existing Renewable Fuels Standard. Continue Reading

The Weekly Hill Update

Washington D.C. The capitol, the seat of the government of the United States.Below is the Federal Policy team’s weekly preview, posted when Congress is in session.

HEADLINES

• Monday, the 2020 election begins as Iowa Democratic caucus-goers choose their nominee against President Donald Trump.

• Tuesday, Trump will deliver the State of the Union Address.

• Wednesday, the Senate will vote on the articles of impeachment against Trump, with little doubt he will be acquitted.

HOUSE

  • The House will convene Tuesday for the State of the Union Address, but no votes are planned until Wednesday; the House plans to take up a supplemental aid bill for Puerto Rico as well as a labor rights bill.
  • The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday will hold a hearing on the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
  • The Ways and Means Health Subcommittee on Wednesday will hold a hearing on “overcoming pharmaceutical barriers.”
  • The full list of this week’s House committee activity can be found here.

SENATE

  • The Senate will resume Trump’s impeachment trial today, leading to a Wednesday vote which will almost certainly result in his acquittal and the end of the impeachment process.
  • The Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday will hold a hearing on the trucking industry.
  • The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Wednesday will hold a hearing on implementation of the VA MISSION Act.
  • The current list of Senate committee activity can be found here.

WHITE HOUSE

  • Tuesday, Trump will deliver the State of the Union Address at the Capitol.
  • Thursday, he will speak at the National Prayer Breakfast, and meet with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
  • Friday, Trump will travel to Charlotte for the North Carolina Opportunity Now Summit.

Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

SURPRISE BILLING FIX REGAINING TRACTION?

Legislation to address unexpected bills for out-of-network medical care appears to be making a comeback, after a committee turf battle stalled its progress at the end of last year.

House leaders want to pass a bill by May, when they intentionally created a deadline for several popular health programs that will need congressional reauthorization. Leaders hope to drive action on surprise billing and prescription drug costs in May.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal, D-Mass., plans this week to release his committee’s bipartisan legislation. Neal says the committee will vote on its bill Feb. 12. The plan relies on outside mediation to settle billing disputes; a competing plan from the House Energy and Commerce Committee uses a benchmark payment rate.

Leaders are pressing the House to overcome differences and find consensus. The issue also pits two of Washington’s most powerful healthcare lobbies against each other: hospitals and doctors favor the Ways and Means approach, while insurers support the benchmarking plan.

Further complicating the issue, House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., this week said his panel plans to take up its own legislation. Little is known about what that plan might look like, but Scott also said he would like to work with Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. Alexander supported the Energy and Commerce plan and pressed for its inclusion in catch-all spending legislation last month. Continue Reading

The Weekly Hill Update

Washington D.C. The capitol, the seat of the government of the United States.Below is the Federal Policy team’s weekly preview, posted when Congress is in session.

HEADLINES

• The Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump continues amid new revelations that a forthcoming book from former National Security Advisor John Bolton will say that Trump told him that U.S. aid to Ukraine was tied to that country’s investigation Joe Biden and his family.

• Trump is staying busy this week, including a visit from Israeli leaders and a planned release of his Middle East peace plan, and signing the implementing legislation for the new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.

• Trump also will hold a political rally in New Jersey for Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew, and will also hold a rally in Iowa four days before the state’s Democratic caucuses.

HOUSE

  • The House is in session today through Thursday and is planning to take up a repeal of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq.
  • The House Financial Services Financial Technology Task Force on Thursday will hold a hearing on the rise of mobile payments.
  • The Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday will hold a hearing on infrastructure funding.
  • The full list of this week’s House committee activity can be found here.

SENATE

  • The Senate is consumed with the impeachment trial, allowing limited time for other business.
  • Trump’s legal team this week will continue presenting its defense case, which began on Saturday.
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday will hold a closed hearing on Iran policy.
  • The current list of Senate committee activity can be found here.

WHITE HOUSE

  • Trump today and Tuesday is meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders and has promised to unveil his long-awaited plan for peace in the Middle East.
  • Tomorrow, Trump will host a campaign rally for Van Drew, who recently switched his party affiliation to Republican.
  • Wednesday, Trump will sign the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, before departing for a Thursday visit to a factory in Michigan and campaign rally in Iowa.

Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

CONCERNS ABOUT CORONAVIRUS GROW ON CAPITOL HILL

As coronavirus cases continue to emerge in the United States and worldwide, lawmakers are seeking briefings from federal health officials about the outbreak that originated in China and what steps U.S. health agencies are taking to protect Americans.

Five cases were confirmed in the United States, but there have been nearly 3,000 people infected and 81 related deaths in China. The virus is from the same family of viruses that caused previous outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

Senators on Friday received a briefing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Officials told senators that the risk to the American public is low, and that the agency has the resources it needs to address the spread of the disease.

Still, lawmakers are showing concern over the outbreak and are reaching out to the Trump administration for information.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., a former healthcare executive, called on the administration to declare a public health emergency. Democratic senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker of New Jersey wrote to the CDC and the State Department regarding screening procedures at Newark and other major U.S. airports, and Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., wrote a similar letter to the CDC regarding Detroit’s international airport. Continue Reading

Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

NEW SENATOR JOINS HEALTH COMMITTEE

Newly sworn-in Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., is the newest member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Loeffler took the oath of office last week, replacing retired Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.

Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., praised Loeffler as having the background and skills to “immediately become an effective member of the committee.”

The committee’s jurisdiction includes public health, biomedical research and development including authorization and oversight of the Food and Drug Administration, aging, and individuals with disabilities.

Isakson’s departure from the Senate due to his own health difficulties leaves a significant void in healthcare policymaking. He was an accomplished legislator on a variety of health-related issues and sat at a unique intersection of health policy as a member of both the HELP and Finance committees, the two primary committees of jurisdiction on healthcare. Isakson also was the chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Although a conservative Republican, Isakson is celebrated as a gentleman of the Senate who was eager to work with his Democratic colleagues on issues where they could find mutual interest. Tyler Thompson of the BakerHostetler Federal Policy team served as Isakson’s healthcare legislative assistant for seven years. Continue Reading

The Weekly Hill Update

Washington D.C. The capitol, the seat of the government of the United States.Below is the Federal Policy team’s weekly preview, posted when Congress is in session.

HEADLINES

• President Donald Trump will host a ceremony marking the signing of a trade agreement with China.

• Speaker Nancy Pelosi is likely to send House-passed articles of impeachment of Trump to the Senate, after unsuccessfully seeking procedural concessions from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

• Democrats will hold their final debate tomorrow before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3.

HOUSE

  • The House is in session today through Thursday and will likely approve a resolution to appoint managers and transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate.
  • The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the Trump administration’s Iran policy, amid ongoing unrest in Tehran protesting that government’s leaders.
  • The Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the Defense Department’s role in competing with China.
  • The full list of this week’s House committee activity can be found here.

SENATE

  • The Senate will vote on the nomination of Peter Gaynor to be administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

WHITE HOUSE

  • Tonight, Trump will attend the college football national championship game in New Orleans between Coach Ed Orgeron’s Louisiana State University Tigers and Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers. Go Tigers!
  • Tomorrow, Trump will host a campaign rally in Milwaukee as Democratic contenders to challenge him participate in their final debate before primary elections begin.
  • Wednesday, Trump will participate in a signing ceremony for a trade agreement between the United States and China.

WASHINGTON: 5 THINGS TO WATCH IN 2020

1. 2020: More of the same or next-level craziness?

Despite a series of near-cataclysmic political events throughout 2019 – from the longest government shutdown in U.S. history and the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to President Donald Trump’s impeachment – the overall political environment remained largely stable during the year.

For example, at the beginning of 2019, 55 percent of voters said the country was on the wrong track; at the end of the year, that number stood at 56 percent, according to Real Clear Politics’ average of polls tracking voters’ sentiment about the direction of the country. Similarly, Trump’s job rating of 44 percent approval and 52 percent disapproval at the end of 2019 largely mirrored his numbers at the beginning of the year.

What about 2020? Are we headed for more of the same? Or will the combination of a Senate impeachment trial at the beginning of the year and the presidential election at year’s end serve as bookends to a political supernova in 2020? Continue Reading

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