Congressional Corner




Aug. 31, 2017

Congress returns from recess on Sept. 5. It is expected to be an extremely busy legislative session. Below are a few issues that ASTHO will be closely monitoring.

House Voting on a FY18 Omnibus Appropriations Bill

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on a package of appropriations bills, including:

  • Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.
  • Interior and Environment.
  • Agriculture and Rural Health.
  • Commerce, Justice, and Science.
  • Financial Services and General Government.
  • Homeland Security.
  • State and Foreign Operations.
  • Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development.

There are three days of floor time reserved for consideration of the House’s omnibus appropriations bill—Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of next week. Members of Congress can submit amendments to the bills. There are currently over 900 amendments pending. It is unlikely that all of these amendments will be considered by the House of Representatives.

Continuing Resolution

With less than 15 legislative days remaining before the end of the fiscal year, it is widely expected that Congress will approve a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government running. While ASTHO has not seen any legislative text, rumors are circulating that the CR will last through December. It is currently unclear whether the CR will remain at current funding levels or whether a sequestration order will be issued to ensure that top line numbers adhere to the sequester caps established by the Budget Control Act.

ASTHO will monitor the situation closely. If Congress fails to approve a CR, the government will shut down on Oct. 1.

Debt Ceiling

Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling by Sept. 29. Many members of Congress are signaling that they would prefer to keep the debt ceiling vote “clean,” to avoid any potential default.

Emergency Supplemental

Congress will begin working on developing an emergency supplemental disaster relief package to provide assistance to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. According to Politico, a couple of strategies are currently being considered, including immediately approving a bill to provide funding for FEMA and then developing another funding package at the end of September.

Since Congress is on recess, details about the emergency supplemental are still under development and emerging. 

Senate Finance Committee Hearing on CHIP Reauthorization

On Sept. 7, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “The Children’s Health Insurance Program: The Path Forward.” Witnesses include Leanna George, the mother of a CHIP recipient; Ann Schwartz, executive director of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission; and Linda Nablo, chief deputy director of the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services.

Without Congressional action, federal support for CHIP will expire on Sept. 30.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Hearing on Market Stabilization

On Sept. 6, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Stabilizing Premiums and Helping Individuals in the Individual Insurance Market for 2018: State Insurance Commissioners.” Witnesses include the following insurance commissioners:

  • John Doak, Oklahoma.
  • Mike Kreidler, Washington.
  • Julie Mix McPeak, Tennessee.
  • Theresa Miller, Pennsylvania.
  • Lori K. Wing-Heier, Alaska.

On Sept. 7, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Stabilizing Premiums and Helping Individuals in the Individual Insurance Market for 2018: Governors.” Witnesses include the following governors:

  • Charlie Baker, Massachusetts.
  • Steve Bullock, Montana.
  • Bill Haslam, Tennessee.
  • Gary Herbert, Utah.
  • John Hickenlooper, Colorado.

While the hearing will focus on the affordability of premium payments in the individual health insurance markets, federal investments in evidence-based, effective public health prevention programs will likely be discussed. As such, ASTHO developed and sent suggested talking points for state health officials to share with governors and insurance commissioners who are testifying.

Governors Release Bipartisan ACA Recommendations to Congress

This week, eight governors signed on to a letter addressed to congressional leadership with recommendations to make healthcare coverage more stable and affordable. Importantly, this letter emphasizes that, “Reforms should not shift costs to states or fail to provide the necessary resources to ensure that the working poor or those suffering from mental, illness, chronic illness or addiction can get the care they need.” The letter also outlines immediate action that the federal government can take to stabilize the markets, responsible reforms to preserve coverage gains and control costs, and ways to ensure an active federal and state partnership based on innovation and commitment to improving overall health system performance.