This Week in Washington: Congress returns to complete appropriations and year-end legislation.



Expected Committee Changes in Health-Related Committees

With party control changing in the House, there will be changes in who leads the health-related committees. At the House Ways and Means Committee, now-Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) will become the ranking member. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) is expected to become chair. For the last year, he has been the ranking member of the committee’s subcommittee on Health.

At the House Energy and Commerce Committee, now-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) will become the ranking member, and the current ranking member, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), will become chair. These changes will have to be approved by the Republican caucus.

The Senate will see some changes despite Democrats’ remaining in control. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is expected to take the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee. That means that Sen. Bernie Sanders is next in line to be chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Because the current ranking member, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), is retiring, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) is expected to become ranking member of the HELP Committee. Sen. Cassidy is a physician and also serves on the Senate Finance Committee.


Senate Finance Committee Releases Discussion Draft on Mental Health

On Nov. 10, the Senate Finance Committee released its fourth discussion draft concerning mental health provisions for possible inclusion in an end-of-year bill.

The draft legislation would:

  • Clarify that peer support specialists can provide behavioral health integration services to Medicare beneficiaries
  • Increase Medicare payment rates for behavioral health integration services from 2026 through 2027
  • Direct CMS to create a single global payment under the physician fee schedule to fund mobile crisis response team services including screening and assessment
  • Require CMS to create bundled payments for crisis stabilization services for Medicare beneficiaries

For more information, click here.

Senate Finance Committee Democrats Urge CMS to Release New Medicare Advantage Marketing Rules Quickly

On Nov. 15, Democratic Senate Finance Committee members, led by Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Bob Casey (D-PA), urged CMS to release regulations as soon as possible to enhance oversight of Medicare Advantage marketing. Earlier, the committee released a report revealing instances of Medicare Advantage marketing fraud in 14 states. Senate Democrats are urging CMS to increase consumer protections through notice-and-comment rulemaking as soon as possible. They are also calling on Congress to fully fund the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP).

For more information, click here.

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