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On the Hill: State of the Union Tonight, ACA Hearings, CBO Scores SGR Bills

In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama likely will highlight early successes of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – an issue notably absent in his last annual address. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress, will deliver the Republican response. She is expected to criticize the bumpy roll-out of health care coverage under the ACA.

Today, the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform held a private hearing on security issues related to healthcare.gov with witnesses Kevin Charest, PhD, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) chief information security officer, and Milton Shomo, MITRE Corp. security contractor. This is the committee’s second hearing on healthcare.gov. The House Committee on Ways and Means also held a hearing today about the law’s employer mandate, focusing on the 30-hour, full-time employee definition.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored the Senate Finance Committee’s sustainable growth rate (SGR) repeal legislation as costing $150.4 billion over 10 years. A House Ways and Means SGR bill was scored at $121 billion, and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce bill was scored at $146 billion. Unlike the two House bills, the Finance bill contains about $40 billion of Medicare extenders, which are included in the $150.4 billion score. Hill staff continue to negotiate on merging the three bills.

On Monday, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Richard Burr (R-NC) released a legislative outline to repeal and replace the ACA. The plan includes issuing tax credits to employees at small companies, allow states to create high-risk pools, and significantly changing the Medicaid program. These changes would be paid for by capping the employee health plan premium tax exclusion.

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