1 April 2015 Legislative News Update

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Wednesday, April 01, 2015

weekly electronic newsletter, and is published 
every Thursday when Congress is in session.







ACQUISITION REFORM PROPOSAL RELEASED   House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry and Ranking Member Adam Smith have introduced a bill that would reform the Department of Defense’s acquisition system. 

fact sheet released by Thornberry and Smith said that the Agile Acquisition to Retain Technological Edge Act (H.R. 1597),   is “focused on, but not limited to, reform of the acquisition system.” 

“More than being monetarily wasteful, dysfunction in the acquisition process is sapping America’s technological edge and robbing our military of agility in the face of multiplying threats. The acquisition system is slow and cumbersome, delivering vital equipment years late that underperforms and is difficult and costly to maintain. Chairman Thornberry recognizes the urgent need to address reform and this bill places a mandate to begin the dynamic process of reform on all stakeholders. The legislation is built upon the notion that a successful acquisition system is proactive, agile, transparent, and innovative.”

Thornberry and Smith intend for the measure to be considered for inclusion in the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act.  That bill will be marked up on April 29.

DOC FIX FIXED (ALMOST)   Before they departed on a two-week recess, the House overwhelmingly passed legislation that would end the “sustainable growth rate” used to calculate doctor’s payments for Medicare. As readers know, this also affects TRICARE beneficiaries because TRICARE reimbursement rates are tied to Medicare’s.  The final vote was 392-37. 

After extending the program 17 times with only partial offsets, the House sent a bill to the Senate that would eliminate the need for patches and would pay for at least some of it by changing how much wealthy seniors pay for their Medicare prescriptions and doctors’ visits, and by instituting a $147 deductible for supplemental Medicare coverage (Medigap).  

Unfortunately, the Senate left town without passing the bill.  However, due to an administrative lag time between when Medicare receives claims and when it actually makes payments, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services said if Congress acts soon after returning from recess, the government will be able to make payments to providers without imposing the pay cuts. A 21 percent cut in physician pay for treating Medicare/TRICARE patients took effect on April 1.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the measure will be considered after the two-week break, and he expects it to pass the Senate with overwhelming support.

MUSIC TO OUR EARS   Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee Michael B. Enzi said that Republicans will look at changing the 2011 Budget Control Act that implemented sequestration as soon as the recently-passed budget resolution has been conferenced. “One of the things the Republicans on the Budget Committee have suggested was that as soon as we finish the budget, which we hope to finish by April 15, that we could begin a look at the Budget Control Act itself,” said Enzi, R-Wyo.

Both sides of the aisle have expressed their desire to end sequestration; however, saying it and doing it are usually two different things.  During the recent debate and vote of the budget resolution, Senators rejected an amendment offered by Patty Murray, D-Wash., which would have boosted defense and non-defense spending levels equally and would have paid for the increase over 10 years by closing tax loopholes.