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ML Strategies Health Care Preview Week of May 13, 2019

This week, all is quiet in the Senate as stakeholders await the release of the highly anticipated cost-containment package that is being developed by the HELP and Finance committees. While the details are not yet public – a discussion draft is expected to be released this month – we anticipate that language around surprise billing will headline this package. The surprise billing issue received a renewed push last week as the President threw his weight behind the issue. While the stakeholders still need to work out some differences, it’s clear that intense bipartisan interest in fixing surprise billing raises the probability of Congress passing legislation this year.

The question here is timing. If the Senate champions driving this legislative vehicle can release details this month, it is theoretically possible that the respective committees could approve language that could be considered by the full Senate in July. That said, in addition to surprise billing, this package is expected to include language to lower drug costs. There are nearly a dozen drug pricing bills in the Senate from various members, many of which are bipartisan bills. For House and Senate champions, the larger this package grows, the more challenging it will become to pass.

The House has also passed a number of bills designed to strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While these bills are almost certainly not going to be considered in the Senate, it could slow the process down in addition to raising political temperatures if House Democrats insist on certain measures getting considered.

Lastly, it is important to keep in mind deadlines. The end of the fiscal year is September 30, 2019, and Congress will have to pass legislation to fund or address several important programs, including Community Health Center funding, teaching health center funding, the National Health Service Corps, and the Medicaid Disproportionate share hospital delay. While this package is separate from the cost-containment package being developed in the Senate, the two packages are inextricably linked as Congress may need a “must-pass” vehicle like this extenders package to move bipartisan legislation.

More Drug Bills on the Docket

Following passage of two bipartisan drug pricing bills last week, the House is expected to take up and pass H.R. 987, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act. This bill is going through the Rules Committee this week which will enable it to incorporate a number of other drug pricing and ACA provisions considered through other committees. This package will then head over to the Senate where it is unlikely to pass itself, but certain provisions could be considered.

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About this Author

Eli Greenspan ML Strategies Mintz
Manager of Government Relations

Prior to joining ML Strategies, Eli was a legislative correspondent for US Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), where his experience included health care, education, child welfare, social security, food assistance, and poverty issues specifically as they relate to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Social Security. Previously, Eli served as a legislative intern with Senator Heinrich. He also served as a legislative intern with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), where he worked on issues related to education, health, and commerce. Eli has also served as an intern at a political...

Alexander Hecht, Vice President of Government Relations, Mintz Levin law Firm
ML Strategies - Executive Vice President & Director of Operations

Alex is Executive Vice President & Director of Operations, ML Strategies, Washington, DC. He is an attorney with more than 10 years of senior-level experience in Congress and trade associations.

Alex assists clients with their legislative and regulatory needs on a wide range of issues, including health care, telecommunications, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), technology, energy, and federal procurement. Prior to joining ML Strategies, Alex served for over six years as chief counsel for Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) on the US Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship. He was the lead policy counsel for Senator Snowe on health insurance market reform, individual and employer-based insurance, ERISA, COBRA, HIPAA, and health care tax incentives. He worked on numerous bills, including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009, Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, Small Business Health Fairness Act, and Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Act. He advocated for health care legislative and regulatory issues before Senate Finance, HELP, Commerce, and Homeland Security Committees, as well as the US Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Labor. Along with health care policy, he advised Senator Snowe on energy, financial services, innovation, and technology matters.

Alex is regarded as one of the leading congressional staff specialists on the regulatory process and how federal agencies promulgate rules and regulations. He has developed numerous bills and amendments reducing the regulatory compliance burden of business.

Prior to working on Capitol Hill, Alex was a legislative analyst, with a focus on health and environmental regulatory issues, at the National Multi Housing Council. He was also a research clerk at the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, studying Medicaid reimbursement and long-term health insurance planning. Alex was also the chief articles editor for the Houston Journal of Health Law & Policy at the University of Houston Law Center.