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Week Ahead: Trump set to deliver State of the Union; House committee to examine ACA lawsuit

Feb. 5: President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver his second State of the Union Address. The speech comes as congressional and administration negotiators try to hammer out a budget deal before Feb. 15 and avoid another shutdown and bitter standoff between Trump and Democratic leaders. While border security and the economy are sure to be at the forefront of his remarks, Trump continues to rail against the high cost of healthcare, especially drug prices. And last month, he suggested that the administration will attack the scourge of surprise billing. Stacey Abrams, who lost her bid to be governor of Georgia, will deliver the Democrats’ response. She ran hard on healthcare access, especially Medicaid expansion.

Feb. 5: Picking up on a set of hearings from last year, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee continues its deep dive on healthcare costs. This time, the panel will look at how primary care impacts costs and quality.

Feb. 5: A Senate appropriations subcommittee will drill down on how the Veterans Affairs Department is doing in retooling its EHR. The department entered into a $10 billion no-bid contract with Cerner Corp. last May. The hearing comes a few weeks after the Senate confirmed former Ernst & Young executive James Gfrerer as the VA’s chief information officer. Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, wrote Gfrerer in mid-January saying, “EHR modernization cannot be allowed to fail.”

Feb. 6: Two scheduled congressional hearings illustrate the seismic shift in power in the House of Representatives. Holding true to the partisan divide gripping D.C., the House Energy and Commerce Committee will tackle litigation challenging the Affordable Care Act in a hearing titled “Texas v. U.S.: The Republican lawsuit and its impacts on Americans with pre-existing conditions.” Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on preventing gun violence, the first hearing on the topic in eight years, committee Chairman Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) boasted in a tweet last week, adding that “the House is finally taking action to prevent gun violence.”