This Week – September 16, 2017

This Week in Washington, D.C.

  • ACA Repeal Watch: Deadline Looms as Republicans Unveil New Bill
  • Deadline Approaching: Apply Now for the Joint ACG-FDA Fellowship Program
  • Legislative Call to Action: ACG needs your help! Urge your support for HR 3120 & HR 3726

From ACG National Affairs Committee Chair, Whitfield L. Knapple, MD, FACG

ACA Repeal Watch: Deadline Looms as Republicans Unveil New Bill

This week, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (SC), Bill Cassidy, MD, FACG (LA), Dean Heller (NV), and Ron Johnson (WI) released legislation repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), framing it as the last hope to fulfill Republicans campaign promise to repeal the ACA.  They may be right, as ACG reported to you last week that the Senate parliamentarian (office that determines procedural order in the Senate) noted that Congress has until September 30th to pass an ACA repeal measure using “budget reconciliation,” allowing the Senate to pass a bill with a simple majority.

Although the bill is largely popular among fellow Republican Senators, several have voiced their concerns or uncertainty with the measure, including Senators John McCain (AZ), Rand Paul (KY), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME).  Only two defections can be afforded in order for the bill to pass. The bill would provide states with grants to implement insurance programs and high-risk pools, instead of using tax credits, Medicaid expansion, and cost-sharing payments under the ACA. It would also repeal the ACA’s individual and employer mandates to have health insurance. ACG remains concerned over protections for essential health benefits and patients with pre-existing conditions.

Separately, reports surfaced this week stating that Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee have agreed to a five-year funding extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  CHIP must be reauthorized by September 30th.  The proposed legislation would maintain a 23% increase in the federal matching rate to states for 2018 and 2019, then beginning 2020, this would be reduced to 11.5% before being completely eliminated starting in 2021.  The House has yet to announce an agreement.  ACG continues to monitor these negotiations, as it may provide a vehicle for certain Medicaid changes that Republicans initially sought in ACA repeal packages earlier this year.

On Wednesday, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced “the Medicare for All Act of 2017,” which seeks to expand Medicare universally into a single-payer system. This plan would be completely funded by the public by an increase in taxes, which, in turn, would eliminate all co-pays, employer-based insurances, and a large portion of current private insurers. Though the bill currently has 16 Democratic cosponsors, it is unlikely to garner Republican support.  ACG will continue to monitor the future of this legislation.

Deadline Approaching: Apply Now for the Joint ACG-FDA Fellowship Program

Current fellows are invited to submit their application for a one-month rotation at the FDA, sponsored by ACG. The candidate chosen will have the opportunity to participate in daily FDA activities, and will gain first-hand knowledge of the drug and device approval process. The College will provide a stipend for travel and daily living expenses. All applications must be submitted directly to ACG, and will be reviewed by the ACG FDA Related Matters Committee along with staff at the FDA.

Upon completion of the rotation (while you are a fellow), the candidate will be invited by ACG to present his or her experiences at the following ACG Annual Scientific Meeting. All applications must be submitted by this Friday, September 22, 2017. The candidate will be chosen and notified of acceptance by November 2017.

Click here for complete details regarding the FDA-ACG Fellowship Program.


Legislative Call to Action: ACG needs your help!
Urge your support for HR 3120 & HR 3726

This week, ACG monitored the hearings of two pieces of bipartisan legislation significant to ACG members.  HR 3120, the act “to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to reduce the volume of future electronic health record-related significant hardship requests,” was approved by the Health Subcommittee for Energy & Commerce to be forwarded to the Committee at-large.  This legislation, introduced by Chairman Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX), would “allow the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to be more deliberative [in regards to] Meaningful Use,” aligning with the College’s mission in reducing reporting burdens among practicing gastroenterologists and GI clinicians.

HR 3726, the “Stark Administrative Simplification Act of 2017,” was approved as amended to report to the House of Representatives by the Ways & Means Committee. Introduced by Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX), along with Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Patrick Meehan (R-PA), this bill, which builds upon legislation passed in July, seeks to develop alternative methods to addressing inadvertent technical violations for the current Stark Law under Medicare. It additionally would help to modernize the rule, by setting up a process that physicians can utilize to self-report.

We need your help: please reach out to your elected officials and urge them to support these important health policy issues impacting ACG members and your patients.  Our website makes this process quick and simple.

You can view and complete these action alerts, as well as additional alerts for any current key legislation on the home page of the linked site below. Also, by clicking on the “Bills” section, you can view information about any relevant measures that ACG is tracking at both the federal and state level. See one missing? Let us know!

Click here to take action now!