Overview

Last week, the Senate passed its version of the “Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2018” (H.Con.Res. 71). Before final passage, the Senate adopted an amendment that was negotiated with the House leadership. This will allow the House to vote on the Senate-passed budget resolution this week, avoiding the need for a conference committee to negotiate and resolve the differences between the versions.

This week the House also plans to debate the “Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017” (H.R. 732), and the “Sunshine for Regulations and Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2017” (H.R. 469). The Senate is expected to take up the House-passed emergency supplemental appropriations bill for Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and western wildfires.

Health Care Developments

On October 19, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate Floor to introduce their “Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act of 2017.” The bill currently has 24 cosponsors, 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats.

The bill appropriates the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments for 2017, 2018, and 2019 and requires states to certify that issuers receiving the CSR payments will ensure consumers and the federal government receive a financial benefit. This is to prevent insurance companies from “double dipping.” The bill would not diminish any existing Affordable Care Act (ACA) patient protections including coverage for those with pre-existing conditions; guaranteed issue; and the prohibition on annual and life time limits. It makes “copper” plans available to anyone regardless of age or hardship status.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) spokesman said “the speaker does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare.” Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who drafted their own repeal-and-replace legislation, have signed on as cosponsors to the bill. They say they are working with Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) to make changes to the Alexander-Murray bill to make it more palatable to the House.

Tax Reform

With the House and Senate on the verge of passing a budget resolution, the stage is set for a bicameral push for legislation that reduces individual and corporate tax rates while eliminating some deductions and credits. Tax reform could consume official Washington for the next several weeks, with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) focused on enacting legislation by the end of the year.

On September 27, the White House, Senate Finance Committee, and House Ways and Means Committee jointly released a “framework” outlining key elements and principles for tax reform. The framework calls for reductions in individual and corporate tax rates, as well as repeal of the estate tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax.

The anticipated timetable for House consideration of tax reform would see: (1) release of the text of the legislation during the week of October 30th; (2) votes in the House Ways and Means Committee on the legislation during the week of November 6th; and (3) House floor debate during the week of November 13th. These dates could easily slip as Members may seek changes to specific provisions included in the bill text. Senate action is expected to trail the planned House timeline.

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 costs.

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: