Health Care Front and Center.
Mark-Ups of Reconciliation Language Continue. Last week, Energy and Commerce and the Ways and Means Committees released language for the reconciliation bill. As detailed in the language, House Democrats are moving forward on expanding Medicare benefits to dental, vision, and hearing coverage; creating a Medicaid gap program for the states that have yet to expand Medicaid under the ACA; expanding Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies; enacting prescription drug pricing reforms; and providing $190 billion in new funding for home and community based services (HCBS). This week, the committees will continue to mark-up the language with goal of packaging the entire bill together on the House floor over the next two weeks. To date, we have not seen any additional health care pay fors beyond prescription drug pricing reforms. But it is important to remember that this is still the beginning of the process. Once the mark-ups are finished, House Democrats have to combine them into a comprehensive reconciliation bill for consideration on the floor. During that time, there will be ongoing negotiations as needed to garner the support of a majority of the House of Representatives. And that doesn’t even get to the ongoing with the Senate, and don’t forget that all provisions need to comply with the Byrd Rule. Again, this is still the beginning.
But reconciliation isn’t the only top tier issue for Congress right now. To avoid a government shutdown, Congress must pass and the President must sign some form of government funding bill (likely a continuing resolution (CR)), prior to the September 30 fiscal year deadline. Otherwise, a government shutdown begins October 1. It is expected that the House will vote on a short-term CR next week that will maintain government funding until early December. It is reported that Democrats will be packaging disaster relief, assistance for the Afghanistan withdrawal, and raising the debt ceiling into this CR hoping that the addition of these other provisions can garner bipartisan support.
Bottom line: Buckle up for the bumpy ride of September.
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