All Quiet on the Health Reform Front

By Elise Viebeck

This week’s healthcare schedule will remind some of a quieter, simpler time — a time before healthcare reform.

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled on the Affordable Care Act and the House has voted to repeal the law for a second time, the issue may finally recede somewhat on Capitol Hill.

This is especially true as August recess approaches and as other issues — such as Medicare payments to physicians — cry out for attention before January 1.

The one exception is a possible healthcare repeal vote in the Senate, recently promised by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“I would remind you all that we had that vote in 2011. Every single Republican voted to repeal it,” McConnell said at a press conference Tuesday. “We believe it’s appropriate to have that vote again and we’ll be working to get that kind of vote in the near future.” That day, he filed an amendment to the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act that would repeal the law. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has vowed to block the effort.

This week, Wednesday will be both chambers’ busiest day for health issues.

The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the sustainable-growth rate, the mechanism by which doctors are paid under Medicare. The payment rate is scheduled for a drastic cut on Jan. 1 unless Congress acts.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education will markup the fiscal year 2013 bill.

“If Washington is going to tackle our spending problem, we’ve simply got to start setting priorities,” Chairman Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) said in a statement. “We can strike a balance between funding responsible, effective programs that work for people and trimming waste and duplication to help reduce the deficit.”

The Senate Special Committee on Aging will hold a hearing on dual-eligibles, the special population that is enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid.

The Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control will holding a hearing on prescription drug abuse, with testimony from Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution will hold a hearing on a constitutional amendment codifying as a right parents’ freedom to “direct the upbringing, education and care of their children.” The measure, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), has vast implications for healthcare and education. It had 70 cosponsors on Friday, while a companion measure in the Senate, from Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), had 11.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold a hearing on the distribution, sale and consumption of certain asthma inhalers.


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