|This Week in Congress|
Yesterday, the House voted 234-183 to pass a resolution that expressed disapproval of the final fiduciary rule released by the Department of Labor earlier this month. The resolution fulfills Congress’s authority to disapprove of costly, burdensome rules issued by federal agencies, as permitted under the Congressional Review Act of 1996. Congress must pass a joint resolution within 60 legislative days to invalidate it, and must be either signed by the president or, if vetoed, two thirds of both chambers must vote to override for the resolution to take effect. If these measures are not met in this timeframe then the regulation will be implemented as scheduled. The Senate could consider the resolution for passage under a simple majority; however, it is unlikely that there would be enough votes in either chamber to override a presidential veto of the regulation.|
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the debates over Zika, opioids, and the Flint water crisis carried over from last week and continue to take center stage. House committees have been busy holding markup hearings on these bills while working on details on an agreement over how to fund them—either through the regular appropriations process or through emergency measures to make the funding available sooner. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) promised an “opioid week” when Congress returns on May 10th. Both the House and Senate are due to go on break next week, pushing their legislative work into the second week of May when crunch-time will officially begin. Congress is expected to have just eight legislative workweeks remaining before it heads out for its long summer recess. After that it will only be in session for four weeks in September and a total of 16 days combined spread across November and December where a busy lame-duck session is expected.
NAHU’s lobbyists have been busy the past few weeks on two priority pieces of legislation related to Medicare. The first relates to Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period (OEP), where we are close to launching a Senate companion bill to H.R. 588 introduced last January by Representatives Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR-5). The legislation addresses a needed change to restore an option that was taken away by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan used to be able to make a one-time switch to another MA plan that better met their healthcare needs between January and March. Under the ACA, beneficiaries enrolled in MA plans who wish to make a plan change only have one option—disenrolling from their MA plan to enroll in traditional Medicare. As a result, low-income beneficiaries may experience significant gaps in coverage, leaving vulnerable seniors unable to afford a supplement or Medigap plan to cover these gaps. As soon as the Senate companion is introduced we will send out an Operation Shout calling for support.
We are also very close to introducing legislation to count COBRA as creditable coverage for Medicare. Currently, seniors who are enrolled in COBRA coverage, but are eligible for Medicare face financial penalties for not enrolling within the mandated timeframe. However, seniors who are enrolled in similar employer-sponsored plans are not penalized as their coverage is considered creditable for Medicare. We are close to narrowing down primary bill sponsors on legislation that will allow seniors to be able to remain on their COBRA coverage without penalty, the same as seniors who remain on similar employer-sponsored coverage. We will send out an Operation Shout as soon as legislation is introduced.
Finally, in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation, both Republicans and Democrats this week called on the Administration to terminate a Medicare Part B demonstration program scheduled to begin this summer that would reduce reimbursements for hospital outpatient centers and high-cost drugs given in doctors' offices. Republicans are working to send letters from both chambers asking that the program be terminated while Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee sent a letter voicing their concerns with the program.
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