Jose Woss

About Jose Woss

José Woss is passionate about policy issues and the legislative process. José works closely with the team to research policy and legislative matters to find creative approaches to client needs. He focuses his work primarily on health care issues, global health policy, and foreign relations. He assists clients with scheduling and coordination of Hill days and meetings with Congressional staff. José enjoys monitoring important Congressional and regulatory matters. Additionally, drawing from his personal appreciation for technology and social media, he works to promote the success of both the team and the team’s clients through Twitter. Before joining the District Policy Group, José worked for U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). As a staff assistant and interim deputy press secretary, he honed his passion for policy and advocacy. José currently lives in Washington, D.C. Previously, José was an advocate in the New York/New Jersey region. He worked directly with underrepresented communities as a social worker in Housing Works’ Brooklyn, NY office and as a case aid/interpreter for West African refugees with the International Institute of New Jersey in Jersey City, NJ. José graduated from Montclair State University with a bachelor’s degree in french translation and international studies. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at American University. He loves to bike long-distance, and listen to podcasts, including the BBC World Service, political satire and commentary, and NPR.

The House Majority Leader race and Appropriations Update

On Tuesday June 10 Eric Cantor, Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, lost his primary to Tea Party candidate, David Brat in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. Since the House Majority Leader and Minority Leader were created in 1899 during the 56th Congress, no Majority Leader has lost a primary election.

House leadership positions are voted in by rank-and-file party members in the House and they facilitate party coordination in scheduling and passing legislation. Additionally, they act as representatives of party message during floor proceedings and oversee committee Chairmen/women in the House.

Following his primary loss, Representative Cantor decided to step down as Majority Leader effective July 31, 2014. Thus far Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Majority Whip of the House and close friend and ally of both Representative Cantor and the office of Majority Leader is seen as the likely next Majority Leader. This shuffle creates the potential for an opening for the position of Majority Whip. A recent National Journal article indicates that Representatives Roskam (IL), Scalise (LA), and Stutzman (IN) will be seeking the Whip’s position. These internal races will be taking place with the backdrop of the midterm elections in all 535 House Members’ districts taking place in November.

Additionally, these internal elections create the possibility for delayed floor action on important legislation including appropriations which could result in passage of a short-term CR or a large omnibus appropriations package.

Senate Confirms Burwell

Earlier today the Senate voted 78-17 in Executive Session to confirm the nomination of Ms. Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be the new Secretary of The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Ms. Burwell was most recently the head of President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget before being nominated for her new role. Ms. Burwell takes the helm of HSS from the former Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. A native of Hinton, West Virginia—a town of roughly 3,000, Ms. Burwell held the position of Deputy Chief of Staff working with Erskine Bowles in President Bill Clinton’s second administration. Ms. Burwell becomes the 22nd Secretary of HHS, an agency of over 70,000 federal employees across a number of important departments: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and the Administration on Aging among others. The largest portion of the agency’s near trillion dollar annual budget is dedicated to funding the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) charged with running the Medicare and Medicaid programs nationwide.

Dewonkify: 302(b) Allocation

Term: 302 (b) Allocation

Definition: Each year, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees receive an overall funding allocation for the coming federal fiscal year. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees then, respectively, decide on how to apportion the overall amount to each of their corresponding 12 subcommittees. The amount assigned to each of the 12 subcommittees is known as a 302(b) allocation and taken together the 12 assigned amounts are known as 302(b) allocations. From this funding allocation starting point, the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees distribute federal spending authority throughout the specific departments, agencies, and programs under their  jurisdiction.

Used in a sentence:  “[Senator] Mikulski said that she and [Congressman] Rogers have discussed allotments, which appropriators call ‘302(b) allocations,’ for their section in the 1974 budget act. ‘I know what his are, but ours will be different,’ she said.”

-The Hill

 History:  The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 is a law that modifies Congress’ role with respect to the federal budgeting process. (Government Printing Office Public Law 93-344) The main provisions of the law created a process whereby both chambers of Congress agree on a single concurrent budget resolution. which is not signed by the President. Additionally, during budget debates members may raise budget points of order to have specific language removed from underlying legislation. (Senate Budget Committee) The final agreed upon Concurrent resolution passed in both chambers sets an overall top level spending figure (302(a) allocation) to guide appropriators as they craft the 12 individual appropriations bills. The chairs of the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate then each release a document setting their respective top line numbers for each of the 12 appropriations bills, known as  302(b) allocations, named after section 302(b) of the Congressional Budget Control Act. The 302(b) allocations outline the maximum spending levels for each of the 12 individual spending measures. It is not uncommon for the House and Senate to apportion funding differently and for the 302(b) allocations between the chambers to diverge. These differences usually get resolved during either a formal or informal conference committee between House and Senate Appropriators.

 

Notable Departures of the 113th Congress

With the midterm elections just over six months away there are a number of notable retirements in Congress. To date nine Senators and 49 Representatives have decided to not run for reelection.

Notable in these retirements are the years of seniority and institutional knowledge leaving both chambers. A number of important Members will be leaving at the end of the 113th Congress.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA):

Harkin of Iowa will be retiring after five terms in the Senate. He is the current Chairman of the important Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee. This committee is responsible for overseeing the aforementioned including all discretionary health policy –anything that is not Medicare/Medicaid related. He is also an appropriator serving as chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services subcommittee tasked with funding those important agencies and programs. This dual role of authorizing legislation and appropriating the funds for those authorized programs have helped to make him an effective leader in the Senate.

Representative Dave Camp (R-MI):

Camp of Michigan will be retiring after 12 terms in the House. He is the Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. This Committee has the constitutional privilege of introducing any revenue generating legislation giving the Chairman a significant amount of discretion over federal legislation in both chambers. In addition to taxation and some trade matters the Ways and Means Committee has oversight over all mandatory health policy meaning most matters dealing with Medicare or Medicaid.

Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK):

Dr. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma will be leaving the Senate early, due to a medical condition, having served two years into his second term.  “Dr. No,” as he is sometimes affectionately called, has adopted the role of dogged watchdog of the purse-strings. He has used the many rights and privileges he has as a Senator to demand cuts and request that legislation meet “pay-go” and statutory budget restrictions.

Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA):

Waxman of California will be leaving after serving 20 terms in the House of Representatives across nine Presidential terms. In addition to a wealth of institutional knowledge he is taking with him, he is one of the strongest Democratic voices on climate change. As Chairman of the important Energy and Commerce Committee, Mr. Waxman overseas energy policy as well as health policy from the FDA, to public health programs to Medicaid and some Medicare policy. He was instrumental in helping then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi with crafting and aiding the passage of the Affordable Care Act in the House in late 2009.

Representative George Miller (D-CA):

Miller of California is another important leader who will be leaving at the end of the 113th Congress.  Also from California and having served 20 years like Mr. Waxman, Representative Miller leaves the Chairmanship of the House Education Labor and Workforce Committee. In addition to chairing an important committee he is close friends with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The chamber will lose an able member of the leadership.

Dewonkify – Outlays

Term: Outlays

Definition: Outlays refers to the actual disbursement of funds by the U.S. Treasury to meet obligations incurred by the federal government. They are typically referred to as spending or expenditures.

Used in a sentence:The U.S. government posted the widest monthly budget surplus in more than five years in June, as spending plunged 47 percent and a stronger economy lifted tax receipts, the Treasury Department said.

 Receipts exceeded outlays by $116.5 billion last month, the biggest surplus since April 2008, compared with a $59.7 billion deficit in June 2012, the Treasury said today in Washington. The result exceeded the $115 billion median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 21 economists.” -Bloomberg

History: Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution states:

“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”

In a textbook budget process, the President proposes a budget to Congress on a yearly basis in the beginning February. Subsequently, both the House and Senate propose and pass their own budgets and reconcile them to set “top-line” numbers for the relevant accounts within the federal government.  These “budgets resolutions,” are not signed by the President, and do not carry the force of law. From these numbers, the House and Senate appropriations committees divide the allocations among the 12 subcommittees, thus determining the actual funding levels for each agency and program. These bills are signed by the President and carry the force of law. From this process the federal government is authorized to produce expenditures or outlays to pay for the programs necessary to continue government operations.

Dewonkify – Overseas Contingency Operations

Term: Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)

Definition: OCO funding is money set aside in the federal budget for expenses connected to overseas operations such as: crisis response, infrastructure and coalition support for operations in Iraq/Afghanistan, humanitarian assistance in the Middle East and North Africa, and embassy security among other needs abroad.

Used in Sentence: “‘I have received some questions about the willingness to do OCO as a pay-for,” Fisher wrote. “Chairman Wyden is VERY OPEN to considering OCO as a pay-for. If that is the position of your organization, please include that in your support letters … [and] convey this sentiment in your meetings with senators.’ The email sheds light on the status of negotiations over a permanent “doc fix.” Lawmakers are closer than ever to repealing the SGR, but deciding how to offset the reform is proving a major challenge.

Wyden, the Finance Committee’s newly installed chief, is hardly the first lawmaker to suggest war spending as a way to fund an SGR fix. The idea has been proposed by House Democrats and has support from major players in the medical community.             -The Hill

History: Following the terror attacks of 2011, President George W. Bush’s administration requested Congress provide specific funds to pursue the “Global War on Terror.” Beginning in 2009 the administration of President Barack Obama changed from using the “Global War on Terror” terminology to instead employing the nomenclature of “Overseas Contingency Operations” and the funds to support the effort became known as OCO.  Due to the reduced U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, the need for OCO funding is declining.  In Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 OCO outlays/expenditures were $93 billion and the President’s request for OCO in FY 2015 has decreased to $85 billion.  Currently, there is a debate in Congress about the possibility of using the OCO funds as “savings” to pay-for other expenses (i.e. SGR)—Democrats contend that reallocating OCO funds would account for actual savings, while Republicans claim that since the monies have not actually been spent it is not real savings, just money the nation no longer needs to spend.

Dewonkify – Risk Corridors

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act –commonly referred to as “the ACA”—is a law that reformed nearly twenty-percent of the economy through modifications to regulations and changes to existing law. Its primary goals were to expand health care coverage and control rising costs. Among a number of reforms, the ACA mandated that all citizens have health insurance for a minimum of nine months of the year (or face a penalty); allowed children to remain on their parents plan until the age of 26; created health insurance market places where anyone can shop for health insurance; and banned insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions.

Word: Risk Corridors

Used in a sentence:Risk corridors, a provision of the ACA, limits both the amount of money that a health-insurance plan can make and lose during the first three years it is sold on the new health-care exchanges. Related programs that mitigate risk for insurance companies are also being targeted by conservative Republicans.” –Rep. Tom Cole quoted in The Washington Post.

Definition: Risk corridors are a component of the ACA that limit the risk borne by qualified health plans on the insurance marketplaces. Risk Corridors are a mechanism to minimize the year-end losses of insurers who covered a disproportionate share of sicker, often older, insured customers. The federal government, through the Department of Health and Human Services, agrees to cover 50% of the excess costs borne by insurers if those costs exceeded premiums by 3-8%. In the event those losses amount to greater than 8%, the government will defray 80% of those losses. However, if insurance companies see similar gains then the situation is reversed and the federal government is the beneficiary of those excess funds. This is the risk adjustment portion of the ACA where “healthier” insurance companies help ones shouldering more expensive populations.

History: Ideally, insurance is a system whereby a company manages risk by distributing moneys from a sizeable portion of healthy participants—needing minimal to moderate medical services—to a much smaller portion of sicker participants that need a lot more medical services. This results in a margin or profit where premiums exceed the medical costs of the consumers participating in a given plan. This is a simplified way of explaining what actuaries do every year. They take consumers in a given plan and compare their likelihood to use medical services with the expected revenues from monthly insurance premiums and other out-of-pocket costs like yearly deductibles. However, the advent of the ACA brought on this new frontier of health insurance marketplaces where no one could be denied care due to pre-existing conditions: previous surgery, diabetes, HIV, cancers, benign tumors, hypertension, etc.

Although, risk was managed by mandating that everyone be covered, this did not completely allay the fears of private insurers. Actuaries remained nervous. Anyone from the individual market—usually those not eligible for Medicaid/Medicare or employer sponsored coverage—could enter the exchanges and purchase insurance coverage. This uncertainty could have resulted in excessive premiums to consumers. To mitigate that risk and help with the possibility that consumers would be sicker and older—and thus more likely to use many costly medical procedures—the authors of the law created risk corridors. This would be a temporary program to help insurers on the insurance market places for three years.

 

Health Care on the Hill: February, 2014

“An Examination of Veteran Access to Traditional and Alternative Forms of Mental Health Therapy”
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Health
Thursday, February 20, 2014, 10:00am
Broadcast Online

Hearing to Receive Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans
Joint House and Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
Tuesday, February 25, 2014, 2:00pm
345 Cannon House Office Building

VA Accountability: Assessing Actions Taken in Response to Subcommittee Oversight
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Health
Wednesday, February 26, 2014, 10:00am
334 Cannon House Office Building