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Washington Update: Senate Democrats Urge New Guidance on Subsidized Graduate Student Health Insurance; American Innovation & Competiveness Act Introduced in Senate; and University Regulations Streamlining & Harmonization Act Introduced in House

Senate Democrats wrote to several cabinet secretaries last week to urge new guidance on graduate student health insurance; the American Innovation & Competitiveness Act was introduced in the Senate last week; and the University Regulation Streamlining and Harmonization Act was introduced in the House last week.

Senate Democrats Urge Obama Administration to Issue New ACA Guidance Allowing Subsidized Graduate Student Health Insurance
A group of 17 Senate Democrats, led by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), wrote the Departments of Treasury, Health & Human Services, and Labor last week, urging the administration to change its interpretation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to permit universities to continue to provide subsidized graduate student health insurance without penalty.

The administration issued guidance in February that allows institutions to continue to offer the coverage through the 2016-2017 academic year; however, universities will then need to discontinue offering this coverage or face steep penalties. This discontinuation would be especially harmful to graduate students who may be forced into ACA exchanges that may not offer coverage as favorable as what universities are currently providing.

The letter was signed by Senators Schumer (NY), Brown (OH), Casey (PA), Stabenow (MI), McCaskill (MO), Boxer (CA), Durbin (IL), Gillibrand (NY), Feinstein (CA), Donnelly (IN), King (ME), Kaine (VA), Warner (VA), Nelson (FL), Bennet (CO), Booker (NJ) and Klobuchar (MN).

Senate Innovation & Competitiveness Act Introduced
Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI), along with Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Bill Nelson (D-FL), last week introduced S. 3084, the American Innovation & Competitiveness Act. This legislation builds on the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 and authorizes programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) and activities at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The American Innovation & Competitiveness Act includes several very positive policy provisions: The bill would ease the regulatory burden facing researchers, support programs such as I-Corps that facilitate technology transfer and commercialization, and renew the commitment to merit-based research grants and the peer-review process.

The Senate Commerce Committee marked-up and approved the American Innovation & Competitiveness Act this morning. The committee-passed bill provides specific funding levels for FY2017 and FY2018. For FY2017, the bill would fund NIST at $974 million and NSF at $7.510 billion. These numbers represent the funding levels passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee’s FY2017 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill. For FY2018, the bill proposes funding NIST at $1.013 billion and NSF at $7.810 billion, a 4 percent increase over the proposed FY2017 levels for each agency. More information on the markup can be found here.

APLU supports passage of this bill and issued an initial statement, which can be found here.

Regulatory Reform Bill Introduced in House
Last week, Representatives Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) introduced the University Regulation Streamlining and Harmonization Act of 2016, H.R. 5583. This bill addresses many of the research regulatory concerns identified by the National Academy of Sciences report, Optimizing the Nation’s Investment in Academic Research. H.R. 5583 would eliminate the duplicative auditing of research grants, create an online database for researchers’ grant application information and create advisory boards to review proposed regulations and improve existing ones. APLU issued a statement supporting H.R. 5583, which can be found here.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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