Congress Returns to Washington

The House and Senate returned this week to begin the “lame duck” portion of the congressional calendar. The session is expected to run through December 9 at which point lawmakers will adjourn the 114th Congress. The only must-do item on the Congressional agenda is funding the federal government, which expires December 9. House Republicans have begun work on a continuing resolution to fund the government through March 31, 2017, a strategy requested by President-elect Trump’s transition team.

The spending bill will be added to the growing list of health reforms Congress has pledged to tackle in 2017. The repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act and an overhaul of Medicare are at the top of the list. House Republicans indicated this week that an overhaul of the Medicare system is a priority within the first six to eight months of 2017.

New Secretary of HHS candidates met with President-elect Trump this week. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), who is an orthopedic surgeon and chairs the House Budget Committee, was an early Trump supporter. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is among other candidates for the top HHS spot.

CMS Announces 2017 Medicare Premium and Deductible Rates

Late last week, CMS announced the inpatient hospital deductible and the hospital and extended care services coinsurance amounts for services furnished in calendar year (“CY”) 2017 under Medicare Part A. For CY 2017, the inpatient hospital deductible will be $1,316. The daily coinsurance amounts for CY 2017 will be: (1) $329 for days 61 to 90 of hospitalization; (2) $658 for lifetime reserve days; and (3) $164.50 for days 21 to 100 of extended care services in a skilled nursing facility. The new rates go into effect on January 1, 2017.

HHS OIG Publishes 2017 Agenda

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) published its fiscal year 2017 work plan. The 2017 agenda summarizes new and ongoing reviews that OIG plans to pursue during the current fiscal year and beyond.

One new item on the OIG docket is a review of FDA plans for addressing cybersecurity flaws in medical devices. Three other reviews involve electronic health records-related issues, including audits of providers receiving meaningful use payments to determine whether they are protecting patient information. Further, OIG will look at the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s findings on improper incentive payments and assess CMS safeguards to prevent invalid meaningful use payments.

Next Week in Washington

Congress returns following the Thanksgiving holiday week and may take up the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 6), which makes major reforms to FDA and NIH, as well as a comprehensive mental health reform legislation. The two items may be packaged together and advanced if spending amounts on the 21st Century Cures Act can be agreed to. Congress will also continue internal leadership elections and fill top committee slots for the 115th Congress.