Week ahead: House to vote on ending ObamaCare penalty

Healthcare will dominate the news this week among three major industry conferences, the release of President Obama's budget and a House vote to eliminate the individual mandate penalty for 2014.

The House vote is likely to win the most attention. The bill would get rid of the ObamaCare penalty for not having health insurance for the rest of the year.

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GOP leaders argue that no one who lacks health insurance should be asked to pay a fine given the various problems with ObamaCare's rollout. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) described the GOP's effort as reducing the penalty from $95 to $0.

The vote could take place on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, along with, perhaps, a Senate vote to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has worked to hold up Murthy’s nomination.

The Federation of American Hospitals will start the week with its annual policy conference Monday and Tuesday in northwest Washington, D.C.

The event will feature speeches by former CIA and NSA Director Gen. Michael V. Hayden, Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Wyden's talk is expected to draw particular attention given his recent transition to the Finance chairmanship. Afraid of fresh budget cuts, hospitals will want to hear about his approach to reforming Medicare's flawed physician payment system.

America's Health Insurance Plans will hold two headline conferences, each focusing on the Affordable Care Act. Among the speakers will be Medicare deputy administrator Gary Cohen, who is intimately involved with launching the new insurance marketplaces.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers will spend most of the week debating Obama's 2015 budget, which comes out Tuesday. Four committees — House Budget, House Ways and Means, Senate Budget, and Senate Finance — are scheduled to hold hearings on the White House agenda Wednesday.

Health policy experts will watch for the budget's handling of Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, its assumed rate of growth in healthcare spending, and any new priorities it outlines. As one example, the White House already announced that the budget will propose a major expansion of medical training programs to cope with the growing doctor shortage.

Committees will hold limited events on healthcare this week.

The House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee has two hearings scheduled. One will cover the administration's proposed changes to generic drug labeling requirements, and the other will address Medicare Advantage and Part D.

The Senate Commerce Committee, meanwhile, will consider legislation to reduce sports-related concussions among young people in an executive session on Wednesday.

Finally, the House Small Business workforce subcommittee will look at ObamaCare's impact on self-employed workers on Thursday.

On the advocacy side, the National Kidney Foundation will host nearly 80 patients and family members for a policy summit. The group is focused on protecting access to immunosuppressive drugs under Medicare Part D. The series of events will include a breakfast briefing for congressional staff.

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