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On the Hill: Budget, 21st Century Cures, GME

This week the House stands in recess while the Senate continues legislative business, including a vote on the fiscal year 2016 budget resolution that passed the House last week. Overall, the joint budget agreement calls for $5.3 trillion in cuts to meet the goal of reaching a balanced budget by 2025. The resolution also calls for budget reconciliation procedures that would prevent Senate filibusters and ease the ability to amend current laws. In this case, budget reconciliation may be used to consider repeal or significant changes to the Affordable Care Act, which would likely face a presidential veto.

Last week, both the House and Senate held hearings on medical innovation, including increasing funding for the National Institutes of Health, improving medical record interoperability, and enhancing clinical trials, biomedical research, precision medicine, and other initiatives. The House released legislative text of their 21st century cures package last week for review. Legislation to address these issues has become a top priority in both the House and Senate, and a final package could be used as a legislative vehicle for other health care measures. America’s Essential Hospitals is closely monitoring this work .

Also last week, the House and Senate introduced companion, although not identical, bills to address shortages in physician residencies. The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2015 was introduced in the House by Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Charles Boustany (R-LA) and in the Senate by Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Harry Reid (D-NV). The legislation will add 15,000 new residency slots nationwide with priorities for health systems affiliated with the Veterans’ Administration as well as those operating above their caps, among other designations. In fact, the House proposal requires one-third of the new slots to be available only to hospitals operating above their caps. America’s Essential Hospitals has offered letters of support for both the House and Senate bills.

In Senate committee business, the Committee on Finance held a hearing last week focusing on the audit and appeals process under Medicare. This week, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will hold a hearing focusing on precision medicine.

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About the Author

Jocelyn Wiles is the manager of legislative affairs at America's Essential Hospitals.