Healthcare Preview: Week of October 18, 2021

Do You Get Déjà Vu?

Both the House and Senate Are Back in Session. Democrats are trying to meet the self-imposed October 31 deadline to pass both the reconciliation human infrastructure package and the bipartisan infrastructure package. Even though this October 31 target is also the deadline for the federal surface transportation programs, it could be alleviated with another short-term extension. However, Democrats are also concerned with the Virginia governor’s race, and likely want to use the momentum from passing the packages to help secure a victory in Virginia. The next two weeks will be very busy for Democrats to come together not only on a top-line number from spending in reconciliation but also on the details within that legislation.

Further complicating things is the ongoing feud involving Senator Manchin (D-WV) and Senator Sanders (I-VT) over the reconciliation package. Last Friday, Sanders wrote an opinion piece for a local West Virginia newspaper calling for Manchin to support the reconciliation package. Senator Manchin pushed back on Sanders’s op-ed and continues to dig in on his position. Manchin recently signaled that he wants to cap the child tax credit for families making less than $60,000 and add work requirements, and wants a $1.5 trillion top-line spending number.

Is Healthcare Still in Reconciliation? This remains an open question. Healthcare policies such as prescription drug reform, Medicaid policies and Medicare expansion still could fall out of the reconciliation package. Democrats may not be able to get everyone on the same page regarding healthcare, and healthcare may not be a top-three priority for Democrats in this reconciliation package. In this situation, Democrats would be looking at another all-Democratic reconciliation approach for healthcare in an election year—which would keep healthcare front and center at a critical political time.

Public Health Emergency Extended. On October 15, the US Department of Health and Human Services renewed the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) declaration for another 90 days effective October 18, 2021. This extends the PHE to January 16, 2022.

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