Republican Congressional leadership quickly reprioritized and refocused their efforts following the Trump Administration and House Republican leadership’s failure to secure enough votes for full House passage of the American Health Care Act (“AHCA”), the bill intended to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). As previously covered, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill on March 24 pre-vote. The Senate was slated to vote on AHCA during the week of March 27. The vote ultimately did not take place given Speaker Ryan’s action in the House. Following a March 28 Republican caucus meeting, however, he implied that new or modified reform proposals may be brought forward in the near future.
Certain state governments renewed their efforts to expand their states’ Medicaid programs. Medicaid expansion efforts were largely halted while repeal efforts were pending because the AHCA would have phased out ACA Medicaid expansion and significantly reduced Medicaid spending. In Kansas, for example, State senators voted 25-13 in favor of Medicaid expansion, although Governor Sam Brownback subsequently vetoed the legislation.
During the week of March 27, significant action took place in the congressional committees despite limited action related to the AHCA. On Wednesday, March 29, Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services, addressed the House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Secretary Price testified concerning President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, which aims to cut U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) funding by $15 billion. Secretary Price explained that DHHS will not devote additional taxpayer money to funding and advertising for the ACA. Secretary Price also defended the NIH funding cuts outlined in President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, arguing that the budget should decrease funding in areas where there are duplications or redundancies (i.e., indirect, overhead costs) and increase funding where significant taxpayer return may be realized (i.e., actual research funding).