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 Legislative and Policy Corner

Congress Approves Continuing Resolution, Short-Term Fix for CHIP

Congress passed a continuing resolution last week to keep the government funded at fiscal year 2017 levels through Dec. 22. This action eliminated the threat of a government shutdown for the moment. The continuing resolution included a provision to temporarily help states continue to operate programs funded by the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) while Congress works to finalize an agreement to fully reauthorize the program. The CHIP stopgap provision allows the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to redistribute unexpended CHIP funds to states that run out of money for the program.

Much Work Remains to Be Done

Much work remains to be done in Congress as the end of the year approaches. Congress needs to come to agreement on how to address several priorities, including: fully reauthorizing CHIP, the Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, and other expired programs; tax reform; immigration; health insurance market stabilization; disaster relief; and last, but not least, a deal on lifting the budget caps and passing fiscal year 2018 appropriations into law.

Senate Hearings for HHS Secretary Nominee

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee recently held a hearing on the nomination of Alex Azar to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services. Much of the hearing focused on Azar’s work as a pharmaceutical executive and how he would address prescription drug pricing as secretary. In addition to tackling drug prices, Azar testified that his priorities as secretary would be to make health care more affordable and available, continue to move toward value-based payment for Medicare, and fight the opioid epidemic. He stated that he supports the concept of converting Medicaid from an open entitlement to a block grant program. The Senate Finance Committee is expected to hold a second hearing on Azar’s nomination next week.