Republican Governors Propose Medicaid Changes

GOP governors are congregating around a plan for Medicaid that would allow states to choose between a block grant and a per capita cap. They also support additional waiver flexibility and increased state authority over program eligibility requirements and service delivery and payment. Within the next several weeks, they plan to circulate a letter demonstrating official support for the proposal, while working with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to further flesh out details of potential legislation. They are also forming work groups to consider further Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement measures to submit to Congress.

Finance Advances Nomination for CMS Administrator

The Senate Finance Committee advanced the nomination of Seema Verma to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in a party-line 13-12 vote. The vote was held off the Senate floor after being postponed for a day because there were not enough members in attendance. During the final vote, Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) voted aye by proxy, so his vote was not counted in the 13-12 tally due to Committee rules. Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and other Committee Republicans have praised Ms. Verma for her experience and expertise in successfully reforming several state Medicaid programs, while Committee Democrats have criticized her for providing vague responses to their questions about Medicare or health care reform. Republicans are expected to quickly move the nomination to the Senate floor.

Administration Budget Coming Soon

The President’s budget outline is expected to be delivered to Congress on March 16, according to a senior Office of Management and Budget (OMB) official. The plan will decrease nondefense spending in order to increase the fiscal year (FY) 2018 defense budget by 10 percent. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin stated that the budget includes a funding increase for the VA. Some Congressional Republicans, including House GOP appropriator Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), have already characterized the plan as unrealistic. They are skeptical that such a proposal would be able to be passed, and have stressed that Congress will plan on writing its own budget. Democrats immediately rallied in opposition to any increase in defense spending at the expense of domestic and foreign aid programs. They are demanding that any increase in defense spending be matched with an equal increase to nondefense programs. The President’s blueprint will only contain topline discretionary spending numbers; the complete White House budget is not expected to be released until May.

Sue Ramthun Awarded Presidential Citation by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM)

Citing her significant contributions to the field of hospice and palliative medicine, Sue Ramthun of Hart Health Strategies was awarded the AAHPM Presidential Citation at the 2017 AAHPM/HPNA Annual Assembly in Phoenix, AZ on February 24, 2017. Dr. Christian Sinclair, immediate past president of AAHPM presented the award explaining that “this citation recognizes [Sue’s] efforts to promote HPM priorities in the legislative arena and, particularly, [her] many years of work to advance legislation related to palliative care education and training. From [her] involvement in drafting the initial Palliative Care Training Act in 2004, to [her] work with physician leaders and congressional staff on language for the current bill, [she has] worked tirelessly to help secure legislative champions for PCHETA and to guide AAHPM’s advocacy efforts, including collaboration with other stakeholder organizations. [Her] efforts have been invaluable in ensuring support for the bill grows with each session of Congress and in moving the field closer to achieving its legislative goals.” Other 2017 awardees included Cambia Health Foundation and J. Donald Schumacher, President and CEO (2002-2016), National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO). Sue was honored to accept the award citing the Hart Health Strategies teamwork, the AAHPM government affairs staff, and the many AAHPM physicians who have worked with the Hart Health team on policy development and advocacy outreach.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings/Meetings

Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on saving lives through medical research; 10:30 a.m., Dirksen Bldg.; March 8

House Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee hearing on “Healthy Hiring: Enabling VA to Recruit and Retain Quality Providers;” 2:00 p.m., 334 Cannon Bldg.; March 22

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