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On the Hill: Federal Funding, Health Care Competition

This week Congress continues its work to complete negotiations on federal spending, with the end of the 2015 fiscal year rapidly approaching on Sept. 30. The debate’s flash point remains funding for Planned Parenthood amid the continuous flurry of controversial videos released about the sale of fetal tissue after abortion procedures performed in Planned Parenthood clinics around the country.

In committee business, last week the House Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing focused on health care competitiveness that reviewed both hospital mergers and health insurer mergers. Witnesses included representatives from the American Hospital Association (AHA), American Medical Association (AMA) and American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). The AHA expressed concern with health insurance plan consolidation, while AHIP defended health plan consolidation as long as it promotes market competitiveness. AHIP did express serious concerns with the implications of hospital mergers on price growth and patient choice. The AHA defended hospital system mergers in an effort to create more comprehensive access to health care for patients through increasing care integration. The AMA criticized both hospital and insurance mergers as anticompetitive.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Health Subcommittee held a legislative hearing on four bills relating to Medicaid oversight and program integrity.

In this week’s committee business, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a Health  Subcommittee hearing Thursday on legislation to create stricter abortion laws. The subcommittee will also hold another legislative hearing Friday on four health care bills. On Thursday, the House Committee on Ways and Means will mark up tax and health care-related legislation – seven bills will be considered.

In the Senate, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing today on health information technology and patient record access. The HELP subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security will hold a hearing on Thursday focused on implementation of biosimilar drugs with an update from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


About the Author

Jocelyn Wiles was a former manager of legislative affairs at America's Essential Hospitals.

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