This week in Washington: Reconciliation delayed; short-term debt ceiling fix passed.


Reconciliation Update
Votes on both the reconciliation package and the infrastructure bill were delayed last week after Democratic party divisions threatened the needed consensus. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) stated the most he would support spending on a reconciliation package is $1.5 trillion. The reconciliation package is currently $3.5 trillion. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has also opposed the reconciliation package. It is possible that healthcare measures included in the earlier version of the bill would be cut or otherwise impacted to reduce overall cost.

Debt Ceiling
On Oct. 7, Senate Republicans and Democrats reached a deal to vote on a short-term extension of the debt ceiling. The full Senate passed the debt ceiling measure on Oct. 7. The House is disrupting its scheduled recess to return on Tuesday to vote on the measure. This short-term measure will raise the debt ceiling until early December.


House Committee Leadership Write to Agencies Regarding ACA Contraceptive Coverage
On Oct.7, four Democratic House committee chairs wrote to the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor (DOL) and Treasury to stress that the full range of contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continue to be enforced by the Affordable Care Act. The letter expressed concern that health plans are not fully complying with the requirements, citing cases of coverage denials and extensive requirements that limited access to some FDA-approved contraceptives. The letter can be found here.


Sens. Cassidy and Murphy Request Stakeholder Input on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Programs
On Oct. 5, Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) wrote a letter requesting feedback from stakeholders, including patients, families, providers, advocacy organizations and state and local governments, on the effectiveness of certain mental health and substance use disorder programs. The letter notes that many of the mental health and substance use disorder programs included in the 21st Century Cures Act will have their authorization periods end in fiscal year 2022. The letter requests feedback be directed to the congressional offices no later than Nov. 5, 2021. The letter can be found here.

Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Kevin Brady Request GAO Look into Potential ACA Premium Tax Credit Fraud
On Oct. 5, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) wrote to the Comptroller General, of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Gene Dodaro requesting that the agency look into potential fraud occurring with the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) premium tax credit program. The letter can be found here.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.