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Legislative Issues

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.

The White House released a proposal on Wednesday for what they called the "biggest tax cut" in U.S. history -- with cuts that would benefit businesses, the middle class, and certain high-earning individuals -- but left unanswered questions about whether the plan would be paid for, or how.

In December, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the 21st Century Cures Act. The new law seeks to promote new medical treatments by increasing research money for the National Institutes of Health and streamlining the Food and Drug Administration's review of new drugs and devices.

By Patrick Cooney, The Federal Group, Inc.
Legislative Representative, Dental Trade Alliance

House and Senate Republican leaders are moving ahead with plans to repeal Obamacare then replace it later — dismissing mounting pressure from their own party to delay the repeal vote until they have a fully formed alternative. In January, the Senate advanced a budget resolution on a vote of 51-48, setting up a filibuster-proof process for repealing parts of Obamacare.

By Patrick Cooney, The Federal Group, Inc.
Legislative Representative, Dental Trade Alliance

Recently, President Obama signed the $6.3 billion, 21st Century Cures Act. The measure dedicates $5.3 billion for the FDA and National Institutes of Health to facilitate research and revise the approval process, while also authorizing increased appropriations for NIH from fiscal 2018 through 2020.

Specific amounts would be allocated to several initiatives during the 10-year period. The total funding allocated for each initiative would be capped at:

  • $1.46 billion for a precision medicine initiative, with specific funding amounts from fiscal 2017 through 2026.
  • $1.51 billion for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative or “BRAIN Initiative,” with specific amounts allocated for fiscal 2017 through 2026.
  • $1.8 billion for Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot to aid the development of cancer vaccines, tests, immune therapies and other treatments.
  • $30 million for clinical research in the field of regenerative medicine using adult stem cells.

This article was prepared by Patrick Cooney in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Dental Trade Alliance.

By Patrick Cooney, The Federal Group, Inc.
Legislative Representative, Dental Trade Alliance

On December 5, Health Affairs, a publication dedicated to analysis on health policy and issues affecting health and healthcare, released its December issue which explored the state of oral health. Editor-in-chief Alan Weil wrote that, “the divide between dental care and medical care is vast, has significant consequences for patients, and is entirely of our own making.”

The publication featured more than 15 articles on an array of topics including the cost, use, and access to oral health, oral healthcare in Medicare and Medicaid, and the oral healthcare workforce. On December 7, Health Affairs hosted a briefing in Washington, D.C., where article authors explained their findings relating to seniors' dental care, a dental-medical divide, cost barriers to dental care and many other topics.

You can read the issue here.

This article was prepared by Patrick Cooney in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Dental Trade Alliance.

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