Although we are still awaiting final results of the November 8, 2022, midterm elections, the US House of Representatives appears likely to flip to Republican control, while the US Senate will remain in Democratic hands. Changes from one party to another in Congress, even in just one chamber, can mean big changes in policy progress and direction. This article provides an early look into how those in the healthcare sector should view these outcomes and plan for new dynamics from Capitol Hill and health policy priorities.
This document serves as a tool to track key congressional positions, as well as potential and pending changes that are relevant to health policy on Capitol Hill. It covers US House of Representatives and US Senate leadership and membership of the healthcare committees of jurisdiction. This tracker will be updated after the election when Congress returns, to determine the answers to the speculation below.
The US House of Representatives approved a bipartisan bill that would extend Medicare telehealth flexibilities through the end of 2024; immediate US Senate action on the bill is unlikely, however.
On July 27, 2022, the US House of Representatives approved the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act (H.R. 4040) by a wide bipartisan margin of 416–12. This bill would extend Medicare telehealth flexibilities through the end of 2024, including geographic and originating site flexibilities, expanded eligible practitioners, reimbursement for federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics, delay of the in-person telemental health requirement, continued use of audio-only telehealth and flexibility to use telehealth to satisfy Medicare face-to-face requirements.
Immediate US Senate action on H.R. 4040 is not likely, as the Senate is working on other priorities heading into the August recess. In addition, given the limited number of legislative days on the calendar before the midterm elections, additional action on telehealth extensions is more likely to occur during Congress’s lame-duck session at the end of the year. These same provisions were extended for 151 days beyond the end of the public health emergency (PHE) through the enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, making it less urgent for Congress to act on an extension before the end of the year—although this bill has significantly increased chances of Congress doing so.
Senators Schumer and Manchin announce a bill that includes drug pricing and an extension of the advance premium tax credits, the amount individuals pay for monthly health insurance premiums when they buy health insurance on the Marketplace.
On July 27, 2022, Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Senator Manchin announced a surprise agreement to move forward with an expanded reconciliation bill titled the Inflation Reduction Act (summary here). The tentative deal includes drug pricing and expands upon a previous “healthcare-only” version of the reconciliation package that focused solely on drug pricing and a two-year extension of the advance premium tax credits (APTCs). The deal would raise an estimated $739 billion, with revenues going toward climate and healthcare initiatives, as well as reducing the federal deficit.
Leader Schumer and Senator Manchin released a joint statement outlining the agreement, which contains two key healthcare policy items: allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and a three-year extension of APTCs. The three-year extension is one year longer than had been widely expected and reported in the previous version of the bill. The Biden-Harris Administration has also announced support for the bill. The package must go before the Senate Parliamentarian for Byrd Rule challenges before it can go to the Senate floor. It is expected to garner the Democratic support necessary to pass both the House and the Senate, and will move quickly from this point. The caveat to this is the impact of COVID-19. Several senators are already out, and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced July 28 that he has COVID-19 as well.
New Nationwide Ban Against Enforcement of Mandatory Arbitration Agreements in Sexual Misconduct Cases
On February 10, 2022, the US Senate passed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021 (the Act), a bipartisan bill that invalidates and renders unenforceable predispute arbitration agreements in any case alleging sexual assault or sexual harassment. The US House of Representatives passed a version of the bill on February 7, 2022. US President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law soon.
This week’s runoff elections in Georgia could help President-elect Joe Biden quickly confirm his cabinet and begin in earnest on his healthcare agenda. However, it won’t mean that Democrats will be able to easily make good on their promises to expand on Obamacare, send more funds to states to fight the pandemic or lower the cost of prescription drugs.
In an article for Bloomberg Government, McDermottPlus consultant Rodney Whitlock speaks to the future of healthcare policy in the United States.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has once again extended the temporary nondiscrimination relief for frozen defined benefit plans, now through 2020. Frozen pension plans are pension plans that have been closed to new participants but continue to provide ongoing benefit accruals for certain participants. This extended relief is intended to enable frozen pension plans to satisfy certain nondiscrimination testing requirements. In most cases, the relief allows the frozen defined benefit plan to be aggregated with a defined contribution plan to satisfy the nondiscrimination testing requirements. The relief assists the aggregated plan in passing nondiscrimination requirements that apply to accrued benefits and to certain rights and features relating to those benefits.
The House recently passed the most significant piece of proposed retirement plan legislation in more than a decade: the SECURE Act. Although the Senate must also approve the bill before it becomes law, its proposed changes have considerable bipartisan support in Congress. Plan sponsors should start considering how changes included in the SECURE Act could impact their retirement plans. Employers who do not currently offer retirement plans should also review the new retirement plan incentives included in the proposed legislation.