As Congress prepared for a week-long recess, Republicans from both chambers last week deliberated a marketplace stabilization package to include in a long-term funding bill expected in March.

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Susan Collins (R-ME) met with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Greg Walden (R-OR) to bridge gaps between House and Senate proposals to decrease premiums by compensating insurers through reinsurance. The House proposal, from Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA), would provide $10 billion in annual funding to compensate insurers, while a bill introduced by Collins would provide $5 billion per year.

Senators Seek Information on Hospital Nonprofit Status

Meanwhile, senior Republicans on the Senate Committee on Finance announced plans to review the Internal Revenue Service’s oversight process for designating nonprofit hospitals. Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to the IRS asking for information on how the agency reviews hospital charitable giving, as well as the agency’s standards for how hospitals use money accrued through tax-exempt status to provide community benefits.

HHS Defends Trump Budget

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar met with House and Senate committees last week to defend the administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget plan and answer questions about its health care policy implications. The budget would invest in efforts to curb opioid abuse and improve mental health care, but would sharply reduce funding for Medicaid, Medicare, and other social programs.

Azar defended efforts under the plan to address high drug costs by reducing Medicare drug pricing, as well as proposals to allow states more flexibility to shape Medicaid and health insurance markets.

America’s Essential Hospitals issued a statement thanking the administration for proposing more opioid and mental health funding, but said the budget proposal remains “unacceptable” for its other cuts to support on which essential hospitals rely.