Last week, the House passed: the “Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017” (S. 585). The House is on recess this week.

The Senate returned on Monday from its own recess to resume consideration of the nomination of Callista Gingrich to be the Ambassador to Vatican City. The Senate is also expected to debate the “Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2018” (Committee Text). The House passed its version of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget resolution (H.Con.Res. 71) on October 5. A final resolution, passed in identical form by the House and Senate, will establish the parameters for tax reform legislation. It will also allow the chambers to use the expedited “reconciliation” process to debate and vote on a tax reform bill.

Health Care Developments

On October 12, President Trump signed an Executive Order titled “Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States.” The order directs the Secretary of Labor to consider expanding access to association health plans which could potentially allow employers to form groups across state lines. This would provide workers access to a broader range of insurance options at lower rates. Employers would not be permitted to exclude any employee from joining the plan or develop premiums based on health conditions.

It directs the Secretaries of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to consider expanding low cost short-term limited duration insurance. This insurance is not subject to Affordable Care Act mandates and rules. The Secretaries are also directed to consider changes to health reimbursement arrangements so employers are able to make better use of them to help employees pay for health care expenses.

Late on October 12, the White House announced the termination of cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments. It said guidance from the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services concluded there is no congressionally-enacted appropriation for CSR payments to insurance companies, so the government cannot lawfully make them. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) praised the decision calling it “a monumental affirmation of Congress’s authority and the separation of powers.” Analysis by the Congressional Budget Office projects that halting the payments would increase the federal deficit by $194 billion through 2026. California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut are already considering a lawsuit against the Administration.

Member Reminder

On July 25, Representatives Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), and Pete Sessions (R-TX) introduced the “Ensuring Access to Air Ambulance Services Act of 2017” (H.R. 3378). Representatives Tom Cole (R-OK), Jason Smith (R-MO),  Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), David Loebsack (D-IA), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Kenny Marchant (R-TX), and Terri Sewell (D-AL) have also cosponsored the bill.

H.R. 3378 would reform the Medicare fee schedule for air ambulance services, starting with a cost reporting and analysis program conducted by CMS, followed by: rebasing of air medical reimbursements in 2021; and implementation of a Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program beginning in 2024. The bill would increase transparency and quality by establishing cost and quality reporting requirements, as well as solve for a growing gap between Medicare payments and cost.

AAMS fully supports this legislation, and encourages members to contact their Members of Congress to ask them to cosponsor H.R. 3378. The House of Representatives provides a tool for identifying your Member of Congress by zip code.

More Information on H.R. 3378: