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On the Hill: VA Health, Undocumented Minors, House Medicaid Hearing

After a long bipartisan negotiation, the chairs of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees – Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), respectively – have agreed to legislation to reduce wait times for veterans seeking care at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics. The House is expected to vote on the conference agreement for the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 (H.R. 3230) this week.

Also in the House, lawmakers will consider several bills of interest under suspension of the rules, an expedited parliamentary procedure used for bills with bipartisan support. Of particular interest is the IMPACT Act of 2014 (H.R. 4994), which seeks to improve Medicare post-acute care by requiring standardized data for patient assessments, along with other measures. Other health care legislation to be considered include separate bills to expedite U.S. Food and Drug Administration review of new sunscreen ingredients; to support continued research for muscular dystrophy; and to better monitor prescription drug use.

The Senate plans to vote on border supplemental legislation, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2014 (S.2648), which would include $2.73 billion to assist with issues related to immigrant children crossing the U.S. border. The House is working on a similar measure, with a considerably lower price tag. While both chambers might pass their own version of an emergency supplemental bill, it appears unlikely they will reconcile their bills before the August recess.

In committee business, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing today to review state Medicaid funding systems. The hearing covered a long-awaited report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that reviews Medicaid supplemental payments and other state approaches to helping hospitals and state Medicaid programs maintain financial solvency. The GAO report is expected to focus on California, Illinois and New York.

Congress will adjourn for a five-week recess at the end of this week.

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