Congressional Corner




July 6, 2017

Congress is in recess and will return to Washington, D.C. on July 10. Next week is expected to be extremely busy. Below please find some updates about congressional activities.

Senate Health Reform Efforts

The Senate continues their effort to repeal and replace ACA with the Better Care Reconciliation Act. However, due to a lack of consensus in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) postponed a vote before the July 4 recess. It is widely expected that a third version of the bill will be released sometime next week. According to Cornerstone Government Affairs, there are several rumors circulating about what may be included in the new bill, including:

  • An additional $45 billion over ten years to fight the opioid crisis.
  • A change to the laws governing health savings accounts (HAS) to allow HAS funds to be used to pay for insurance premiums.

Also, according to the Coalition for Health Funding, additional changes to the bill may include:

  • Retaining the ACA’s 3.8 percent tax on net investment income for individuals making more than $250,000 per year
  • Making significant changes to the Senate bill’s rollback of Medicaid.

At this juncture however, the aforementioned potential changes are rumored. ASTHO will be closely monitoring these developments and will provide updated information as soon as the third version of the bill is released.

Federal Budget Update

Members of the House Budget Committee are discussing topline numbers for the FY18 appropriations process and according to media reports the draft budget resolution proposes to cut non-defense discretionary programs by $7 billion in FY18 and $200 billion from mandatory spending over the next decade. However, according to an article in Politico, centrist House Republicans are planning to send a letter to Speaker Ryan which encourages, “GOP leaders to work with Democrats to reach a budget agreement setting higher spending levels for fiscal year 2018.”

If Congress does not reach a budget agreement, current law stipulates sequester level caps on non-defense discretionary programs which would result in a $3 billion decrease from fiscal year 2017 or a 3-4 percent across the board cut, depending on how the appropriations bills are written.

As of today, it is unclear how Congress will proceed on the federal budget. ASTHO will continue to partner with the broader public health community and urge Congress to avoid making further reductions to non-defense discretionary programs and replace sequestration cuts through a package that is balanced both in how such relief is paid for and how it is applied to defense and NDD programs.

House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on “Combating the Opioid Crisis: Battle in the States.”

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) announced a hearing entitled, “Combating the Opioid Crisis Battle in the States.” This hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday, July 12 at 10 a.m. According to an announcement made by the subcommittee the purpose of this hearing is to hear from state officials about current challenges in combating the epidemic, ways the federal government can assist and an update on their efforts that have begun to make a difference.

ASTHO is currently in contact with the subcommittee to learn more about the hearing and will provide more information as it becomes available.

Senator Urges HHS to Provide Resources for Lyme Disease

This week, Senator Schumer (D-NY) issued a press release urging HHS to fully implement legislation to increase research, vaccine development and treatment strategies for tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease.  In addition, the new law established a working group to make recommendations on existing programs and research and to prepare a report summarizing these recommendations as well as current federal research efforts related to Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.

ASTHO will monitor these developments and provide an update on the response from HHS.