Republicans Discuss the Future of Obamacare
After six years of complaining about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) it is time for Republicans to take action, however a divide on how to tackle the law has developed. There are Republican members who prefer a transition to the new system of health care to protect Americans who are currently covered under the ACA, and there are those who favor an immediate repeal and replace of the law no matter the consequence. Republicans also have differences in opinion over whether a repeal of the law should occur when a replacement package is not finalized and ready to be passed. The reconciliation process is being raised as a possible step towards repeal as well. The party rift underscores the complexity and confusion over the mechanics of the ACA. Republican leadership and staff are expected to make decisions on the path towards repeal in the coming weeks. While President-Elect Trump has not shared detailed opinions on health care policy, last week he stated he is open to keeping portions of the ACA in place and preserving popular provisions.
Lame Duck Session Commences
With the 2016 election in the rear view mirror, Members of Congress return to Washington this week to kick-off the lame duck session. It is uncertain how productive Congress will be during this short period of time, but many hope there is an appetite to pass bipartisan legislation into law. Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) continues to fight for H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act, to be front and center during the lame duck session. Both Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan support the 21st Century Cures Act and signaled their commitment to passing the legislation before the end of the year. If the House and Senate can come to an agreement on final bill language and cost offsets, H.R. 6 could be one of the final pieces of bipartisan legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama. The Senate Finance Committee’s work on chronic care, spearheaded by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) has also garnered attention. In October the Committee released a discussion draft based on 80 meetings and 530 stakeholder comments titled the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2016. No cost offsets have been identified, but lame duck passage remains a possibility.
House to Consider Bipartisan Public Health Legislation
This week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced the consideration of four pieces of bipartisan health legislation. H.R. 1192, the National Diabetes Clinical Care Commission Act, introduced by Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), creates a commission to promote care coordination across the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for complex metabolic and related autoimmune diseases. The Commission will evaluate and recommend solutions regarding better clinical care for individuals who suffer with diabetes. H.R. 1209, the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act, introduced by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), increases data collection by HHS to help place maternal health professionals in appropriate areas of need through their existing participation in the National Health Service Corps. H.R. 2713, the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2016, introduced by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), reauthorizes grants and scholarships for graduate and undergraduate nursing education. It also amends the Public Health Service Act to include clinical nurse leaders as advanced education nurses, making clinical nurse leader education programs eligible for advanced education nursing grants. H.R. 4365, Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act of 2016, introduced by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), enables paramedics and other emergency medical services (EMS) professionals to continue to administer controlled substances to patients pursuant to standing orders issued by their EMS agency’s medical director. The House of Representatives plans to pass the bills on Monday, November 14, 2016. The legislation was favorably reported by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in September.