The House Ways and Means Committee approved its share of the American Health Care Act early on the morning of March 9, 2017, while the Energy and Commerce Committee voted up its provisions that afternoon. Democrats offered vigorous opposition, proposing numerous amendments to the legislation, but the Republican majority pushed the legislation forward. No amendments were adopted to either bill.

The two bills will go next to the House Budget Committee, which will combine them. The package will then move to the Rules Committee, where amendments can be made, before it goes to the House floor.

Three Bills Approved By House Committee Face Big Obstacles To Becoming Law

In the shadows of this action, the House Education and Workforce Committee approved three narrow health reform measures. The first of these, passed by voice vote, amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and other federal laws to exclude stop-loss coverage for self-insured health plans from the definition of “health insurance coverage,” apparently to forestall states from regulating stop-loss coverage for small groups. The second bill is intended to remove limitations that the Americans with Disabilities and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act places on the collection of health information about employees and their family members by employer wellness programs. The third bill is intended to facilitate the formation of multistate small business association health plans. Both the wellness and association health plan bills passed the committee by party-line votes.

These bills are not part of the budget reconciliation process through which the House is considering the AHCA, nor are they coordinated with that process. There are indications, however, that House leadership may try to move them through the House along with the AHCA. Should they pass the House, it is hard to see how they would pass the Senate over Democratic opposition. If it appears that they in fact have a chance of being adopted into law, I will offer more in depth analysis of their provisions.

Judge Refuses Government Request To Dismiss Risk Corridor Case

On March 9, 2017, Judge Eric Bruggink of the United States Court of Claims denied the government’s motion to dismiss in another risk corridor case, Maine Community Health Options v. U.S. Judge Bruggink joined judges that have ruled in three other risk corridor cases that the Court of Claims has jurisdiction over the claim and that a decision of the claim is not premature. He asked the parties, however, to file supplemental briefs on the questions of 1) whether payments under the risk corridor program were limited to the funds collected from insurers under the program and 2) whether payment to the Maine insurer from the judgment fund was blocked by provisions in the 2015 and 2016 appropriations bills prohibiting the use of funds appropriated for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to finance the risk corridors. Briefs are due on March 31 and reply briefs on April 10.