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Around 1:45 a.m. on July 28, the Senate voted on an amendment put forward by Senate Republicans known as the “Skinny Repeal” of the Affordable Care Act. That amendment failed by a vote of 49-51.

The Skinny Repeal would have repealed the employer and individual mandates of the ACA. Also, it would have extended a moratorium on a medical device excise tax--an issue important to DTA members. The slimmed down version of repeal and replace legislation was the only version of reform, it appeared the Senate would be able to pass to get to a conference with the House of Representatives on their version of reform. However, votes against the measure from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) denied the ability to move a bill to conference. 

On August 3, the Senate passed legislation (H.R.2430) by a vote of 94-1 that extends for five years the FDA’s authority to collect user fees from drug- and medical-device makers for reviewing new products, sending it to President Trump for his signature. The House passed the bill in July.

The bill would reauthorize user fees for prescription drugs, medical devices, generic drugs, and biosimilar products from fiscal 2018 through 2022. They are set to expire on Sept. 30.

The FDA submits recommendations to Congress for each reauthorization cycle based on negotiations with industry over the framework for the fees and performance goals for the agency.

On Thursday, Senate Republicans released their proposal to replace Obamacare. The plan comes after months of highly-secretive, behind-closed-door meetings. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has previously indicated he would like the Senate to vote on the measure next week ahead of the 4th of July recess, but it’s unclear if it will have the votes to pass the Senate with only 50 votes plus the support of Vice President Mike Pence.

Provisions of the proposed measure include:

The FDA has recently announced a date change for when low risk medical (dental) devices must be UDI compliant. The new implementation date for Class I and unclassified devices is now September 24, 2020. The previous compliance date for Class I devices was September 24, 2018.

Recently the Children’s Dental Health Project released an eye-opening infographic focusing on the future of dental coverage and its effect on spending. The graphic shows that for every 1,000 people who lose dental coverage, nearly $11,000 less is spent on dental supplies.

"The infographic shows the ripple effect if families lose dental coverage. We welcome the opportunity to work with the dental industry to protect the community at-large from potential cuts,” said Children's Dental Health Project Executive Director Meg Booth.

All training funds for oral health professionals are eliminated in the fiscal year 2018 budget proposal.  There is a loss of more than $35 million for oral health training as well. However, the budget proposal increases the National Health Service Corp by $21 million for FY18, a program which places dentists, mental health, and primary care providers in underserved areas of the nation.

Recently, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) released its projection on the cost of reforming the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with the House-passed H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act (AHCA).  CBO and JCT estimate that enacting that version of H.R. 1628 would reduce the cumulative federal deficit over the 2017-2026 period by $119 billion.

The Senate Finance Committee has approved bipartisan legislation (S.870) aimed at improving the management of chronic conditions in the Medicare program. According to the Committee’s Ranking Democratic Member Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), “more than 90 percent of the Medicare dollar goes toward seniors who have two or more chronic conditions.”  The bill includes a variety of provisions to help patients with chronic conditions including providing greater flexibility for accountable care organizations, enhanced telehealth services, and changes to how Medicare Advantage plans serve chronic needs.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus that helped derail the GOP’s effort last month to repeal Obamacare has formally endorsed a revised version of the American Health Care Act, potentiality giving it new life. It remains to be seen how moderate Republicans will view the compromise.

The new enthusiasm stems from an amendment, brokered by Congressman Thomas MacArthur (R-NJ-03). The compromise would allow states to opt out of federal insurance regulations requiring insurers to cover a list of "essential benefits" and not to charge different amounts to individuals of the same age.

The “Seniors Have Eyes, Ears and Teeth Act” (H.R. 508) would expand Medicare to give beneficiaries coverage for hearing services, dental care, vision exams and devices such as hearing aids and glasses. The bill, authored by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) on Jan. 12 already has 126 cosponsors in the House.

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