AHCA leader: Providers warned of potential lame-duck session

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In an atypical twist on the normal, the annual American Health Care Association's congressional briefing on Tuesday did not feature an array of dire, sky-is-falling speakers. But it was punctuated with concern for an upcoming lame-duck session of Congress after the November election.

“We have no ‘must-pass' piece of legislation,” Clifton J. Porter II, AHCA director of government relations, told a record crowd of 465 providers in the morning. “We are dealing with a seemingly calm environment, but we can't let our guard down.”

He said passage of the “doc fix” legislation last year took away a huge annual funding worry. That, added with a largely gridlocked congress due to upcoming elections, has slowed things considerably. After the Democratic convention in July, Porter said, he expects legislative action to grind to a halt. Providers today made dozens of visits to their local legislators. 

After the elections, look out, Porter warned the crowd.

“A lame-duck session can be very noxious, a very risky environment. Wacky things can happen,” he said.

With many lawmakers heading out of office and having nothing to fear from voters after January, their actions can be unpredictable after the elections.

In a related vein, the eighth and final year of an administration can find agencies pushing extra action. There could be, for example, an especially significant amount of movement on aspects of the Affordable Care Act, which has no threat of policy reversal before President Barack Obama leaves office.

In addition, agencies beyond the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, such as the Department of Labor and others, may yield surprises, Porter told McKnight's. He also his morning speech to urge providers to use social media more. Just 10 hits such as Facebook mentions or Twitter messages or retweets gets an issue on lawmakers' agendas, he said.

The day's special visitor was House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who thanked a luncheon crowd of providers at the Capitol Hill Club for their work. The leader of the Senate also spoke to providers in 2013. Tuesday, he urged them to not become disheartened by the current political climate. Instead, he suggested adopting his imagined ideologies for Lincoln and Reagan, both of whom held the presidency in more challenging times. 

“Believe in the exceptionalism of the country,” he said, framing a Lincoln mindset.

And in Reagan's vein? “Do not fear making tough political decisions because if you put them off, the options get fewer.”