This week the GOP held onto the U.S House of Representatives and won control of the U.S. Senate. The Republican takeover of the Senate will usher in new committee chairmen expected to provide a more aggressive check on the Obama administration and scrutiny of its agenda on issues such as energy, foreign policy and Wall Street oversight. However, House and Senate Republicans will be forced to balance their agenda in the shadow of the White House veto power and the 2016 elections, making concessions essential to passing any meaningful legislation.
With 2016 hanging over their heads, experts predict that the Republican Senate will likely avoid a major overhaul of Medicare, because there are many vulnerable members who will face reelection in two years. The GOP will be defending 24 seats in 2016, many of which are in blue or swing states.
We can expect a round of assaults on the Affordable Care Act, with the medical device tax and employer mandate both seen as promising targets.
“The election is a chance to “strike away” at the health-care law, advance trade agreements and revamp the U.S. tax code,” said Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah in a statement today. Hatch is the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee and will most likely become its chairman next year.
AAH initiatives have bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. The Association will fully engage the new Congress regarding problems with the competitive bidding programs and audit reform.
Republicans will only have a narrow window to be productive during the close of the Obama Administration. By the summer of 2016, election season will be underway and as early as summer of next year, several Senate Republicans could start spending most of their time on the presidential campaign trail.
Republicans will be holding hearings and casting anti-ACA votes, however, these actions will be largely symbolic, since any serious threats to the law would be vetoed. If Republicans decide to look for bipartisan achievements, they could work with certain Democrats to repeal the medical-device tax.
An immediate test for the new GOP-led Congress will be Medicare’s physician-payment formula, known as the sustainable growth rate. Money is earmarked through March 31, by which time action will be needed to avert severe reimbursement cuts.
While there is broad support among lawmakers and doctors to scrap the SGR, paying for it is the obstacle. A new Congressional Budget Office estimate is likely to emerge in 2015 and that price tag may determine whether the SGR is ended or another short term doc fix occurs.
36 members of 113th Congress who sponsored legislation favored by the HME community will not be returning when the House of Representatives convenes in January. Of that number:
• 12 lost their bid for re-election to the House; 10 in Tuesday’s election, and 2 in earlier primaries.
• 15 retired or resigned.
• 3 lost in Senate bids; 2 in primaries and 1 in Tuesday’s election.
• Bill Young (FL) died in October 2013; Tim Griffin (AR) won Lt. Governor post.
• 3 of our co-sponsors will be returning to the 114th Congress on the Senate side: Cory Gardner (CO), James Lankford (OK) & Shelley Moore Capito (WV); Bill Cassidy (LA) will join them if he prevails in his run-off election in December.
See the complete list here, along with notations on which bills they cosponsored and details as to how they left the House.
While a number of homecare supporters will not return for the 114th Congress, there a large number of new members that need to be brought up to speed on our issues. If you have a new Senator or Representative, please reach out to them regarding competitive bidding and Medicare audits. Resources can be found in the AAHomecare Action Center.