Washington Watch - 7/30/18
As you may have heard, the House took action last week to move the needle forward on Congress’ continued efforts to bring high quality, patient-centered care to American families and individuals at lower costs. Specifically, the House passed a number of bills with bipartisan support that will work to expand and modernize the use of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), lower the costs of health care services by permanently repealing the onerous Medical Device Tax, as well as work to lower the costs of premiums by increasing consumer choice of quality coverage. I want to take this opportunity to not only commend my colleagues on the House Ways and Means Committee for creating these bipartisan solutions that I believe most all Americans can coalesce around, but to also highlight some of the notable reforms that were included in many of last week’s bills.
- H.R. 6311, the “Increasing Access to Lower Premium Plans and Expanding Health Savings Accounts Act of 2018,” was sponsored by Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL), and would work to expand access and use of HSAs to those 25 million Americans who have already chosen HSAs as their saving and spending option. H.R. 6311 also included targeted changes to some ACA plans that would surely work to decrease premiums. More specifically, the bill would:
- Amend current law to allow health plans that qualify as bronze and catastrophic on health exchanges to be eligible plans for HSA contributions;
- Allow both spouses to make catch-up contributions to the same health savings account, as opposed to separate accounts under current law; and
- Repeal the cap and allow FSA balances to be carried over to the succeeding plan year as long as those balances don’t exceed three times the annual contribution limit.
- H.R. 6199, the “Restoring Access to Medication and Modernizing Health Savings Accounts Act of 2018,” was sponsored by Representative Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), and would provide relief to Americans from onerous ACA taxes on over-the-counter medications, as well as further modernize and expand the use of health savings accounts. Some notable provisions of H.R. 6199 would work to:
- Provide more flexibility by allowing HSA-eligible plans to offer a certain amount of first dollar coverage (up to $250 a year for an individual and $500 a year for family), without losing HSA eligibility;
- Remove Obamacare’s restriction on over-the-counter medicines for all tax-favored health accounts; and
- Allow for contributions to an HSA if a spouse has a health Flexible Spending Account.
- H.R. 184, the “Protect Medical Innovation Act,” was sponsored by Representative Erik Paulsen (R-MN), and would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s 2.3% excise tax on the sale of medical devices by a manufacturer, producer, or importer. During the years this tax was levied, it resulted in the loss of over 29,000 American jobs, and prevented medical device manufacturers from reinvesting dollars into critical research and development of life saving technologies.
While health care issues can easily fall subject to political divisiveness, I continue to believe that most all Americans share a common goal when it comes to fixing our health care system – making sure that our friends, neighbors, and loved ones have access to an efficient and effective health care delivery system. With premiums in the individual marketplace in Georgia 106% higher in 2017 than in 2013, I hope you’d agree with me that we cannot waste even a small opportunity to address the challenges to our overall health care system that have been left behind by the Affordable Care Act. I am confident that the bills passed last week, as outlined above, will address some of the ACA’s challenges, as well as work to assist those who were forced into a plan they didn’t want, by taking long overdue steps to enact targeted policies to make our health care system work better. However, these bills must make their way through the Senate before becoming the law of the land, and so I hope you will join me in urging the Senate to quickly pass them into law.
- Fierce Healthcare. House passes bills to expand HSAs, delay health insurance tax
It’s no surprise that Republicans and Democrats don’t always agree on questions of public policy. But on matters of keeping the American people safe and serving our men and women in uniform, we have found bipartisan consensus on these priorities for 57 consecutive years. On Thursday, after considering hundreds of amendments in committee and on the House floor over the past few months, the House did its job to extend that streak to 58 years in a row as the final version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was sent to the Senate for approval, and hopefully to the President’s desk for his signature very soon. I was proud to be among the 359 House members who voted to grow our military dominance and deter emerging threats from China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and others.
This year’s NDAA fully funds a 2.6% pay raise for our service members, extends special pay and bonuses for those in high demand fields, fully authorizes and strengthens the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction programs, increases the size of our service branches, and includes significant funding to realize these goals—including $17.7 billion to begin to rehabilitate and replace worn out Army equipment, $40.8 billion to begin to overcome the crisis in military aviation by getting more aircraft in the air, $36.3 billion to restore America’s strength at sea, and $23.5 billion to sustain, repair and rebuild crumbling military buildings and other key infrastructure. Importantly, it also makes new investments in state-of-the-art missile deterrence to account for the modern and evolving threats our nation and our allies face each day. Until we can make nuclear weapons a thing of the past, we must ensure that they are rendered as ineffective as possible against American targets. CLICK HERE to read all about this year’s NDAA.
- Military.Com. House passes compromise NDAA, defense policy bill heads to Senate
- The Hill. House easily passes annual defense policy bill
Earlier this month, I highlighted the exciting news that over 600,000 Americans previously discouraged from seeking employment decided to come off the sidelines and re-enter the workforce. Their confidence in the economy is well founded as the latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce shows real GDP increased at an annual rate of 4.1% in the second quarter of 2018. That means consumers are spending more, companies in the U.S. are exporting more, and American businesses are investing more. With all this great news, however, our economy is at risk of losing momentum if we do not have a workforce to support it. Many of the folks I have met with recently have told me just that; their industries are suffering because they cannot find the truckers, engineers, carpenters, masons, and others to fill their demand.
Luckily, President Trump has recognized this need and issued an Executive Order to establish the National Council for the American Worker which will be charged with expanding apprenticeship programs to bring more skilled labor into the workforce and retraining workers to help them keep-up with the evolving demands of their industries. Congress has also addressed this issue legislatively. The House started last year by passing H.R.2353, the “Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act,” which would increase the number of students served by this program and the capacity of schools’ authority to shape curriculums to meet the local industries’ needs. After resolving differences with the Senate, we were finally able to send this groundbreaking bill to the President’s desk last Thursday. Ensuring that we fill the gap between technical jobs and workers who have the skills to fill those jobs is a mission everyone - no matter party affiliation - can get behind. President Trump and Congress are working in tandem to ensure this economic growth is sustainable and felt by every American.
- Bloomberg. U.S. Growth Hits 4.1%, Fastest Since 2014, in Win for Trump
- The New York Times. Amid Worker Shortage, Trump Signs Job Training Order
- The Hill. House passes tech-focused skills training legislation
Everyone in the Seventh District knows the close relationship that our area has with South Korea, and last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Consul General Kim Young-jun to discuss ways to make our relationship – from making it easier to travel to increasing our economic ties – even better.
Rep. Rob Woodall meets with South Korean Consul General Kim Young-jin
Did you know that three Georgia communities have sister city agreements with South Korea, including Gwinnett County with the city of Gangnam-Gu? And did you know that the Atlanta area is home to the Southeast U.S.-Korean Chamber of Commerce, the Korean American Chamber of Commerce, and the Korean American Coalition? Georgia exports to South Korea totaled nearly $985 million in 2016, and imports totaled over $6 billion in that year alone. There are over 75 Korean-affiliated facilities in Georgia, and they are employing more than 10,000 Georgians. As you can see, Georgia’s close ties with Korea are deep and meaningful, and I’m grateful to the Consul General for taking the time to talk with me about that very special relationship.
During the anniversary of the signing of the armistice officially ending hostilities in the Korean War, President Trump announced that the many military families who paid the ultimate price will finally receive the closure they deserve. I’ve met with Georgia families affected by this, and their determination to succeed in securing these remains would surely have made their loved ones proud. Those conversations put into perspective for me how truly important this milestone is, and I’m appreciative to all who made it possible. Earlier this year, the House passed H. Res. 129 with my support, which calls for a renewed effort to fully account for and return all American service members who are still listed as “Missing In Action (MIA),” or otherwise unaccounted for. We will continue working to secure closure for every military family who has endured the pain of losing a loved one and the hardship of not even being able to bring them home.
Hopefully you heard that my office hosted a Telephone Town Hall Meeting last Wednesday night, and I have to tell you that it was such a pleasure to hear from folks back home in the district! Our conversation ranged from healthcare to national defense to veterans’ health care to foreign policy, and I surely appreciate that so many people took time out of their day to speak to me about the issues that matter most to them. If you weren’t able to call last week, there is no need to fret! We are hosting another Telephone Town Hall Meeting this Thursday, August 2nd, at 6:55 PM. You can visit my website to learn more and get all the call-in details! Again, thank you for taking an interest in what our government is doing, and thank you for participating in these events.
As I’ve said before, some of my best days in Washington are when I get to meet with folks back home who are truly committed to making a difference. In a time where many young folks feel deterred or discouraged about how they can make their voices heard, I am grateful for young people like Reid Pickering and Lauren Seroyer who have heeded the call to use their passions and talents to better serve others. Reid, a senior at Lambert High School, recently visited with me in Washington, D.C., to share his ideas on how we can best support those suffering from cystic fibrosis, and Lauren, a recent graduate of Peachtree Ridge High School, co-founded The Community Assistance and Resource Effort (CARE) Closet, a non-profit that serves as a confidential, school-based food bank for students in need.
You can read more about their stories below, but I wanted to highlight the efforts of Reid and Lauren to show how our community’s successes don’t result from unilateral action; they come from a collaborative partnership with individuals who are willing to take up the challenge that inherently comes with changing our community for the better and finding a way to see their goals through to their very end. Emboldening our future leaders to share their ideas and thoughts on how we can best serve our state and our nation has always been a priority of mine, and I look forward to my time in Georgia this upcoming month where I will meet with local groups, businesses, and families so that we can continue to do just that.
- Forsyth County News. Lambert senior advocates for brother on Capitol Hill
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Peachtree Ridge grad earns award for CARE Closets
It’s hard to believe, but as the last days of summer vacation come to an end, students in Gwinnett and Forsyth Counties are gearing up for the start of the 2018-2019 School Year. More than 48,000 students in Forsyth County will begin classes this Thursday, August 2nd, and over 180,000 students in Gwinnett County will start their first day next Monday, August 6th.
As I’m sure you know, we have some of the best schools here in the Seventh District. And in case you haven’t heard the news, Denmark High School in Alpharetta will be opening its doors this week as the newest addition to an already fantastic Forsyth County Public School system. I look forward to Principal Heather Gordy and her team continuing the trend of excellence that we’ve all come to expect from Forsyth’s schools. And it’s certainly true that all that success is largely due to our dedicated students and the devoted efforts of our teachers, parents, and the close-knit community we have cultivated back home, and I’m excited, as I’m sure you all are, to see how we can continue to build on that success.
What’s more, I am grateful for the efforts of our friends, neighbors, and local groups who have volunteered their time and donated items so that every child can have the tools and resources they need to achieve success in the classroom. There is no shortage of altruism or the spirit of giving in our community, and I am empowered by the news I read and stories I hear about the Gwinnett Fraternal Order of Police, the Forsyth County United Way, or all our local Publix stores that are working to provide schools supplies to local kids in need. Welcome back to school everyone!
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Cops and kids ‘back to school’ event provides shoes, supplies for local children
Each year, Congress traditionally departs Washington, D.C., and reserves the month of August for Members of Congress to spend in their districts surrounded by their constituents. What started as a respite from Washington’s oppressive summer heat has developed into a regular feature of the Congressional calendar, and while it may be a break from Capitol Hill, it is certainly not a break from work. Today, Members of Congress take this time to work in their districts and states, meeting with constituents and visiting businesses, schools, churches, community organizations, and more. My August will be no different. The next five weeks will be filled with one-on-one meetings with constituents to discuss the issues that are important to them and visiting with different groups to share what is going on in Washington and how I can bring the Seventh District’s values to D.C.
I would like to take this opportunity to invite all of you to reach out to me via my new website if you would like to meet with me. Whether you would like to have a one-on-one meeting, hear what is going on in Washington and how I am serving you there, or invite me to come to listen to your thoughts and whatever you have to share, you can CLICK HERE to contact me.
Along with being able to request a meeting, on our website you will be able see the number of services my office can provide. We can offer assistance in everything from interacting with a federal agency to helping you plan a trip to Washington, D.C. You can explore more of what we can do for you HERE.
Serving each of you and providing the best experience with the federal government possible is the most fulfilling and rewarding part of being your representative in Congress. Again, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office for any need. I look forward to seeing you around the great Seventh District this August!
Member of Congress