How Much Can Get Wrapped Up This Week?
The End of the Year Is Approaching, but There’s Plenty Left to Do. Last week, a government shutdown was averted. However, the continuing resolution did not address the pending cuts to Medicare provider payments, two of which will be automatically implemented on January 1, 2022, and the third soon after. Members of Congress are now working on a stand-alone bill to prevent some or all of those cuts from going into effect. We are watching to see whether that stand-alone bill will be negotiated on a bipartisan basis, what payfors will be floated, and whether any other end-of-year healthcare policies may be added. If Congress doesn’t act this year, there could be retroactive legislation in 2022, but that raises additional complications.
With regard to the Build Back Better (BBB) Act, all eyes are on the Senate parliamentarian as she works through the provisions and issues her rulings. As a reminder, in order for a provision to survive the “Byrd Bath,” it must show it has a budgetary impact—a provision cannot simply change policies without those policies directly impacting federal spending. We, therefore, expect some House-passed policies, such as immigration, to not survive the Byrd Bath. The parliamentarian will be looking closely at the drug pricing provisions as well. Beyond the parliamentarian’s review, BBB could face additional concerns from Senators Manchin and Sinema, although so far they have been fairly quiet on the bill. Senator Sinema did indicate this week that she does not believe BBB will pass before Christmas. Hopefully, the events of this week will provide guidance on the days to follow.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is still hung up in the Senate. NDAA is generally a bipartisan effort and typically has been passed and enacted into law by this time of year. The fact that it hasn’t passed speaks to the current dysfunction in Congress. However, the delay also provides an opportunity for a debt limit increase to be attached to NDAA, which would take a critical pending issue off the table. Stay tuned here.
Bottom line: There’s a lot that needs to happen between now and the holiday.
LISTEN HERE: Debbie Curtis and Rodney Whitlock review the extensive “to-do” list of legislation that Congress must address as the review of key healthcare priorities in the Build Back Better bill with the Senate parliamentarian begins today.