The Start of a Busy Three Weeks
Congress has increased its attention on abortion following the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate the constitutional protections it provided. This week both the House and the Senate will hold several hearings focusing on women’s reproductive health and abortion. These hearings likely will be intense, divisive and partisan, and are unlikely to result in changed minds or positions among Members of Congress. Also this week, the House will likely vote on H.R. 8296, the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022, and H.R. 8297, the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act of 2022. The House passed another version of the Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 3755) last year, but the bill failed a cloture vote in the Senate and did not move forward. Last week, President Biden signed an executive order that directs the US Department of Health and Human Services to expand access to medication abortion and increase education and outreach efforts for abortion services. The Supreme Court’s decision will impact health policymaking in the months and years to come.
Today is the start of a three-week congressional work period with 12 voting days before the August recess. There are only 120 days to the election. There is very little time for Congress to move legislation, and this is the last stretch before the election season really begins. In healthcare, the most important electoral issue is the extension of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax credits. Majority Leader Schumer and Senator Manchin continue to work together on a reconciliation package that could include this extension. Schumer has already sent the reconciliation prescription drug pricing provisions to the parliamentarian for review. If a reconciliation package does come together, drug pricing almost certainly will be included. It remains to be seen whether sufficient money is available to fund any other healthcare measures, and whether there is support for other measures. We will spend the next several weeks trying to tune out all the other noise and find the answers.