Last Thursday, President Obama signed H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, into law. Also known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) package or the “permanent doc fix,” the bill permanently repealed Medicare’s often-criticized physician payment system. The House and Senate each drew support from both sides of the aisle to pass the legislation, with the House voting for the bill 392-37 on March 26 and the Senate voting for the same language with a vote of 92-8 on April 14.
Optimism for continued bipartisan cooperation continues to linger in both chambers as lawmakers refocus on other health care issues. In the House, the Committee on Energy and Commerce is expected to release its latest draft of the 21st Century Cures Act by the end of the month. The language will stem from the 21st Century Cures Initiative, a bipartisan effort that, through hearings, roundtables, and white papers, explored topics including: innovating public health agencies, incorporating patient perspectives into the regulatory process, meeting unmet patient needs, improving medicine, and modernizing medical product regulation. A previous discussion draft was released in late January.
On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet will hold a hearing to explore telemedicine advancements. The hearing is to focus on the progress of public and private entities to expand telehealth services, especially in rural areas, and the connectivity challenges facing providers and patients. On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Finance Subcommittee on Health with again look at Affordable Care Act implementation, holding a hearing that will consider the medical device tax’s effect on patients, the health care sector, and the economy.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Tuesday, April 21: The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet will hold a hearing titled “Advancing Telehealth Through Connectivity.”
- Tuesday, April 21: The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Fulfilling the Promise to Women Veterans.”
- Thursday, April 23: The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled “Draft Legislation to Improve Reproductive Treatment Provided to Certain Disabled Veterans; Draft Legislation to Direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to Submit an Annual Report on the Veterans Health Administration; H.R. 271; H.R. 627; H.R. 1369; H.R. 1575; and H.R. 1789.”
- Thursday, April 23: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a hearing titled “Combatting the Opioid Abuse Epidemic: Professional and Academic Perspectives.”
- Thursday, April 23: The Senate Committee on Finance Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled “A Fresh Look at the Impact of the Medical Device Tax on Jobs, Innovation, and Patients.”