Heart of Health Policy | New Year, New Congress, New Issues
"No other Congress has ever looked like this," noted a CNN headline announcing the swearing in of the 116th Congress on Jan. 3. The new Congress, made up of 235 Democrats and 199 Republicans in the House (a North Carolina race is still unresolved) and 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats in the Senate, is the most diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, age and religion. Additionally, more than 20 percent of Congress consists of freshman members, including five health care professionals.
With a Democrat-led House, a greater focus on health care is expected, with drug pricing, Medicaid expansion, protecting patient access to coverage for pre-existing conditions, and stabilization of the Affordable Care Act among the topics to take center stage.
In the Republican-led Senate, continued confirmations of Trump Administration appointments and judicial nominees are expected. On the health care front, an increased focus on health care oversight and transparency is anticipated, especially in the areas of rising costs, electronic health record interoperability, increasing administrative burdens on providers and drug pricing.
Appropriations and budget are hot topics for Congress as a whole. House Democrats will likely seek to reverse cuts in social service programs and continue to fight for parity between non-defense and defense spending. More broadly, any meaningful appropriations work going forward will depend on whether Congress can reach a budget agreement. It's likely that a budget caps deal will be approved for FY'20 and FY'21, given recent two-year agreements such as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
In addition to the issues outlined here, the ACC will be working with member leaders and partners to reintroduce legislation addressing Stark laws, South Asian heart health awareness and research, and cardiac rehabilitation.
Other key topics being watched closely by the ACC's Health Affairs Committee and Advocacy staff include health system reform and payment policy, specifically Quality Payment Program and Appropriate Use Criteria Mandate implementation; congressional efforts to control the price of drugs; funding for cardiovascular research and innovation; and policies and programs impacting public health and prevention.
Member engagement is key to advocacy success and facilitating change. The College encourages members to get involved with its grassroots advocacy efforts to amplify the voice of cardiology on Capitol Hill. Here are some easy ways to take action:
- With 110 new members of Congress, the early months of 2019 will be important in terms of building relationships and making introductions to the ACC and the cardiovascular profession. Click here to send a letter to new members of Congress using the ACC's Grassroots Advocacy System. Don't forget to personalize the suggested message! Twitter is also an increasingly good way to communicate with members.
- An important audience for our messages will be the 29 members (four in the Senate and 25 in the House) with health professional backgrounds. Additionally, Congressional leaders heading up major committees or subcommittees are also critical. Do you have a personal relationship with a member (or members) of the House and Senate? Let the ACC Advocacy Team know by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Hosting a visit of Congressional members to your practice is a great way to show first-hand a day-in-the-life of cardiovascular professionals and their patients. The ACC can help! Click here to learn more.
- Learn about the ACC's Political Action Committee by visiting www.accpacweb.org.
Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, Health Policy, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Pharmaceutical Preparations, Public Health, Preexisting Condition Coverage, Cardiac Rehabilitation, Budgets, Benzoates, Parity, Pyrimidines, Electronic Health Records, Social Work, Research
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