Health Reform WK-EDGE Will a new Congress be able to address health care concerns in 2019?
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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Will a new Congress be able to address health care concerns in 2019?

By Anthony H. Nguyen, J.D.

With a divided Congress it will be more difficult for significant legislation to be passed during the next two years, although health care issues are still a high priority for the voting public, according to presenters from Hooper, Lundy & Bookman, PC during a Wolters Kluwer Health Law webinar titled "A New Year and a New Congress—Overview of Health Care Issues in 2019." Robert Roth, Esq., Partner, Martin Corry, Chair, Gov’t Relations and Public Policy Group, Lisa Layman, Principal, Gov’t Relations and Public Policy Group, Robert Miller, Esq., and David Vernon, Esq. discussed a number of health care trends and topics to be aware of in 2019, including health care legislation before the 116th Congress and the status of Azar v. Allina Health Services at the U.S. Supreme Court.

House legislation. In 2019, the House majority is expected to hold hearings and pass legislation addressing prescription drug pricing, as well as shore up perceived weaknesses under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148). Drug pricing may be an area of bipartisan cooperation, as the Trump Administration and some congressional Republicans have voiced support for lower drug prices. The presenters noted that it should be no surprise that the more progressive members of the Democrat-controlled House will press for "Medicare for All," although the expectation is that not much action beyond congressional hearings will take place.

As for the ACA, House Democrats will attempt to strengthen the landmark law by intervening in the Texas v. U.S. decision (see Federal judge lets ACA fall, saying Congress sawed off its last leg, December 17, 2018), adding preexisting condition protections, refunding of ACA enrollment and outreach activities, and repealing or limiting HHS regulations that could weaken the ACA. Legislation would in all likelihood pass the House, but a divided Congress means the bills would not reach the President’s desk for signing.

U.S. Supreme Court. Oral arguments are scheduled for January 15, 2019, in the matter of Azar v. Allina Health Services (see Supreme Court grants cert in Allina notice-and-rulemaking dispute, September 28, 2018). The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the matter after the D.C. Circuit created a circuit split by holding that the notice-and-rulemaking requirements of Soc. Sec. Act §1871(a)(2) apply to interpretive rules (see Interpretative battle continues, HHS seeks cert in Allina II, May 1, 2018). The grant of certiorari was limited to the question of whether Soc. Sec. Act §1871(a)(2) or (a)(4) required HHS to conduct notice-and-comment rulemaking before providing the challenged instructions to a Medicare administrator contractor (MAC) that made initial determinations of payments due under Medicare.

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