Week ahead: CLASS Act repeal vote to put Dems on defensive

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Capitol Hill will have its own spirited political confrontation over health policy when the House votes to repeal the reform law’s long-term-care CLASS Act. The Republican bill is expected to sail through the House and die in the Senate, while putting Democrats on the defensive as they vote to preserve a voluntary payroll deduction program that the Obama administration has said is unworkable. A date has not yet been set for the House vote.

On a more collegial note, the House-Senate conference committee tasked with extending the payroll tax cut and staving off deep cuts to Medicare physician payment rates is expected to meet again next week, perhaps on Wednesday. Some Republicans have warmed up to the idea of using savings from the troop drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay for the so-called “doc fix,” but the idea remains controversial.

Also Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee hosts the first in a series of hearings on user fees that help pay for the federal regulators who review and approve new drugs and medical devices. The first hearing is dedicated to this year’s reauthorization of user fees for brand-name prescription drugs, which have already been worked out between the Food and Drug Administration and the industry. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg is the sole witness listed for the hearing.

Off Capitol Hill, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisers on Tuesday hears from Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.) ahead of the group’s annual Day on the Hill. NAIFA is one of the leading supporters of Boustany’s bill to repeal the CLASS Act.

That afternoon, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) — the new chairman of the Republican Policy Committee — addresses the free-market group Economics 21 regarding the healthcare reform law’s impact on employer-sponsored health insurance.

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