House Passes USMCA Trade Deal
On Dec. 19, the House passed H.R. 5430, the U.S., Mexico and Canada trade deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced a Senate vote on the new North American trade deal would happen in 2020, after the impeachment trial for President Trump in January. The deal removes 10-year patent exclusivity for biologics that was in the original agreement and removes patent evergreening.

House Votes to Impeach President Trump
On Dec. 18, the House voted 230-197 to charge President Trump with abuse of power, and 229-198 with obstruction of Congress. Democratic Reps. Collin Peterson and Jeff Van Drew, who is expected to switch to the Republican Party, voted against impeachment. President Trump is officially impeached, and a trail in the Senate is expected in January 2020.


Senate Passes Spending Bills to Avoid Government Shutdown
On Dec. 19, the Senate passed two spending bills, to fund the government until October 2020. Both bills have already passed the House. The president is expected to sign them. In the first bill considered, several Medicare and Medicaid extenders would be funded through May 22. The bill also delays the Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) pay cuts through May of next year. The proposal did not include surprise billing legislation. The extensions of some provisions until May provides an opportunity for a Medicare bill in May which may have other legislation attached to it.

The bill includes provisions that would delay commercial pay data reporting until 2021 and require Congress’s Medicare payment advisors to study how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has implemented the Protecting Access to Medicare Act, aimed at basing Medicare pay rates for lab tests on commercial rates. The spending deal includes the delay in data reporting and would give the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) 18 months to look at how CMS has implemented the private-payer–based lab fee schedule for Medicare.

It also included repeal of several taxes from the Affordable Care Act: the Medicare device tax, the “Cadillac tax” and the Health Insurance tax.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.