AHCA’s Final Act?
On Friday, April 28, Congress passed a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government until Friday, May 5. The extension gives Republicans until the end of the week to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. Then, House Republican leadership will likely turn again to addressing alternatives to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Last week Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) brokered a deal with Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and released an amendment that would allow states to apply for limited waivers and would undermine the ACA’s protections for pre-existing conditions. Under the waivers, states could “opt-out” of ACA standards setting the minimum benefits that health plans must offer and a requirement forbidding insurers from charging different prices based on health status. Many thought the state flexibility provided in the MacArthur amendment would cater to the needs of both conservative and moderate members and get the Republicans the 216 votes needed to revive the possibility of health reform. The House Freedom Caucus endorsed the updated legislation; however the MacArthur amendment was less appealing to many moderate Republicans who thought the policies were too conservative. It is being widely reported that at least 21 Republicans would vote “no” on the AHCA with the MacArthur amendment. It remains unclear on how a number of other moderate Republicans would vote, however 23 “no” votes would be enough to kill the bill in its current form. Can Republicans pass health reform through what could be the final act of the AHCA, or has the time come to start writing a new script?
This Week’s Hearings:
- Tuesday, May 2: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled “Examining Improvements to the Regulation of Medical Technologies.”
- Tuesday, May 2: The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017.”
- Tuesday, May 2: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing titled “Combating Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Medicaid’s Personal Care Services Program.”
- Tuesday, May 2: The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled “VA Specialized Services: Lower Extremity Conditions.”
- Wednesday, May 3: The House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing titled “2018 Veterans Affairs Oversight.”
- Thursday, May 4: The Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing titled “Telemedicine in the VA: Leveraging Technology to Increase Access, Improve Health Outcomes, and Lower Costs.”
CMS Gathers Feedback and Issues Payment Rates for SNFs, IRFs, and Hospices
On Thursday, April 27, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released their proposed FY 2018 updated payment rates for inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs), skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), and hospices. CMS recommends pay increases for each care setting and policies that continue to shift Medicare payment incentives towards value-based care. In addition, CMS is soliciting stakeholder feedback for regulatory, sub-regulatory, policy, practice, and procedural changes to improve the Medicare program. The proposed rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on May 3, 2017, and CMS will accept comments on the proposed rule until June 26, 2017.