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Rodney Whitlock is a veteran health care policy professional with more than 20 years of experience working with the US Congress, where he served as health policy advisor and as Acting Health Policy Director for Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and, earlier, on the staff of former US Representative Charlie Norwood of Georgia. Rodney has been deeply engaged in health care reform legislation. In 2010, he became the Acting Health Policy Director for Senator Grassley, and shepherded the Medicare and Medicaid Extenders Act of 2010 into law.

The release of the House and Senate GOP tax plan this month has left Washington on edge as it comes to grips with the realities of tax reform. However, the elimination of the medical expense tax deduction in the House Republicans’ tax reform package stands out above the rest as misguided. This elimination would not only affect filers using the deduction, but it also stands to have broader implications for our health care system.

ML Strategies has published a new blog post in Health Affairs on the consequences of the deduction’s removal to the Medicaid program. It can be found here.

As Part of an ongoing series, we have previously provided details on the structure, funding, and evaluation of the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood, Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, Medicare therapy caps, and community health center funding.  This post marks is the first in an exploratory series illuminating the structure, funding, and outlook of the Special Needs Plans (SNPs).  Additionally, drawing on potential riders affected by the current health care minibus, the “minibus” refers to a handful of policy provisions tied together in one piece of legislation. Undoubtedly, this minibus will carry a number of provisions into law. The number of riders who will be on board when the minibus leaves the station remains to be seen. However, as Congress gears up for a mega-package in December – including the debt limit and the budget – there is the potential to incorporate the minibus and/or a health care stabilization package. Continue Reading Special Needs Plans: A Minibus Rider

As a part of our ongoing blog series we have provided details on the structure, funding, and outlook of several expiring health care provisions, that we’ve referred to as the health care minibus. The minibus includes all of the health care extenders left behind from the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). Health care extenders refer to a number of temporary policies that need reauthorization or annual appropriations, including but not limited to, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, community health center funding, therapy caps, special needs plans (SNPs), and Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payment reductions.

In this post we will discuss Medicaid DSH funding cuts and recent activity to address such cuts. Continue Reading Disproportionate Share Hospital Payments: A Minibus Rider

Over the past month, we provided additional details on the structure, funding, and evaluation of the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood, Home Visiting (MIECHV) program and Medicare Therapy Caps. In this post we will go into detail on the structure, funding, and outlook of the “primary care cliff,” and specifically the three programs relating to community health centers. This is part of an ongoing series we are doing on the potential riders of a health care minibus. The “minibus” refers to a handful of policy provisions tied together in one piece of legislation. This minibus will carry a number of provisions into law, although the number of riders onboard the minibus, and when the minibus leaves the station, remains to be seen.  Continue Reading Community Health Center Fund: A Minibus Rider

On August 17, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had reached a $465 million false claims settlement with Mylan, the manufacturer of EpiPen, over the company’s alleged underpayment of Medicaid Drug Rebates for EpiPen. The settlement amount and terms were generally announced by Mylan in October 2016 – but back then DOJ refused to confirm the settlement.

Back in October 2016, we theorized that the announced “settlement” was likely a handshake deal, not yet reduced to writing and not signed off on by the necessary parties.  It’s not surprising that it would take ten months to finalize a health care false claims settlement.  In Ellyn’s government days, she worked cases that took years, not months, to get from handshake deal to announced settlement.

And in reviewing the EpiPen settlement and related unsealed documents, there were things we expected to see in the settlement; admittedly we are grizzled veterans when it comes to false claims settlements.  But there were some things about this settlement that raised our eyebrows. So we will (briefly) recap how we got here and the settlement terms, and discuss the four things that surprised us about this settlement.  Continue Reading The Four Things That Surprised Us in the EpiPen False Claims Settlement

UPDATE: Shortly after this post went live, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would be delaying the vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act until after the Fourth of July recess.  Stay tuned for further updates and analysis from the team at ML Strategies!

The Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is currently being poured over by Senate Republicans and their staff, but the early prognosis for a vote this week is not good. Senate leadership had set a goal of voting on this legislation – known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) – before the Fourth of July recess, which means by this Friday. However, calls for more time to review the bill as well as concerns over certain key provisions – like those touching Medicaid – may stall Senate progress at a critical moment for health care repeal efforts. Here’s where things stand: Continue Reading Capitol Hill Update: Affordable Care Act Repeal on the Ropes?

The latest installment in the ongoing saga over EpiPen Medicaid Drug Rebates came on May 31, 2017, when Senator Charles Grassley issued a press release stating that between 2006-2016 taxpayers may have overpaid for EpiPen by as much as $1.27 billion, “far more” than the announced-but-never-confirmed or finalized $465 million DOJ settlement with Mylan.

To understand what the latest news means in the ongoing saga over EpiPen Medicaid Drug Rebates, it is important to understand how we got here.   And why at the end of the day, the information Senator Grassley included in the May 31, 2016 release may be less important than the information he hinted at but omitted from the release. Continue Reading The Latest in the Epipen Medicaid Drug Rebate Saga – Where Are We Now?

Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess to four full weeks of legislative activity. The drama of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) now hangs over the Senate. The House will return to its regular work once they advance the FDA User Fee Reauthorization, with the Senate also having to schedule floor time for the package. Also on our radar this month will be the date June 21st– the date in which insurers decide if they will participate in the Obamacare Marketplace for 2018. This could play a role in the Administration’s ongoing discussions regarding cost-sharing reductions, as well as how the Senate approaches its version of the AHCA. Continue Reading Congress Returns for June Session to Face AHCA, User Fees and More

shutterstock_573245464In a recent post, we provided additional details on the structure, funding, and evaluation of the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood, Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. In this post we will go into detail on the background and outlook for outpatient therapy caps. This is part of our ongoing series on the potential riders on a health care minibus. The “minibus” refers to a handful of policy provisions tied together in one piece of legislation. This minibus will carry a number of provisions into law, although the number of riders onboard the minibus and when the minibus leaves the station remain to be seen.

Future posts will review additional details of other potential riders on the minibus. Continue Reading Therapy Caps: A Minibus Rider

On May 23, the White House released its 2018 budget proposal, outlining its priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. In health care, the President has proposed cuts to several agencies and programs. The Administration’s annual budget is seen as a statement of policy, not necessarily a legislative proposal certain to become law. That said, ML Strategies has summarized the highlights from the Health and Human Services Budget that are worth monitoring as Congress begins its work on the FY 2018 budget.  The summary is available here. ML Strategies will continue its coverage here of ongoing health care issues on Capitol Hill that will need to be addressed later this year, such as the FY18 budget and the Health Care Minibus.