A Busy Week

This week, the US House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Lower Costs, More Transparency Act (HR 5378). This bill incorporates bipartisan policy provisions that have advanced out of the three committees—House Energy and Commerce Committee, Ways and Means Committee, and Education and the Workforce Committee—but it only has the support of one of the ranking Democratic members of those committees, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) of the Energy and Commerce Committee. These policies focus on transparency, pharmacy benefit manager reforms and reauthorizing otherwise expiring healthcare programs such as community health center funding and prevention of Medicaid payment cuts for safety-net hospitals. The bill is scheduled for consideration under “suspension of the rules.” It will be brought up under that process to avoid the introduction of amendments that alter the bill and could impede broad bipartisan support. However, the tradeoff is that the bill needs two-thirds of the House to support it in order to pass.

Government funding also hangs in the balance. Some House Republicans have come forth with a potential vehicle for a continuing resolution, but the level of agreement among Republicans about this proposal in the House remains unclear. An additional concern is whether any such product can pass muster in the Democratic Senate. In the Senate, progress on a “mini-bus” appropriations bill that incorporates three appropriations bills remains on hold, as work is done to address concerns raised by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). As these negotiations continue, we are now 12 days out from a potential shutdown of the federal government.

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