This Week in Washington: Fighting over how to proceed on the debt limit; Congress still finalizing committee assignments


Congress

House

Reps. Lee, DeGette, Pressley and Schakowsky Introduce the Ensuring Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act

On Jan. 26, Reps. Lee (D-CA), DeGette (D-CO), Pressley (D-MA) and Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced the Ensuring Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Act. The bill reverses the restrictions placed by the Hyde Amendment on Medicaid and federal health insurance coverage of abortion.

Reps. Carter and Blunt Rochester Introduce Bipartisan Essential Medicines Strategic Stockpile Act

On Jan. 23, Reps. Buddy Carter (R-GA) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) introduced the Essential Medicines Strategic Stockpile Act. The bill seeks to strengthen U.S. generic drug stockpiles to prevent drug shortages during public health emergencies and decrease U.S. dependence on foreign pharmaceutical markets. The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to select 50 drugs to include in the stockpile, keep an updated list of the drugs and make the list publicly available.

Senate

Sens. Barrasso, Tester, Daines and Hickenlooper Issue Letter to CMS Regarding Nursing Home Staffing Mandates

On Jan. 20, Sens. Barrasso (R-WY), Tester (D-MT), Daines (R-MT) and Hickenlooper (D-CO) sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), expressing their concerns over CMS’ intent to issue new nursing home staffing mandates. The senators are concerned that new nursing home staffing mandates would adversely impact nursing homes in rural areas. The senators are urging CMS to consider proposals to address the staffing and operational challenges experienced by nursing homes in rural, underserved areas.

For more information, click here.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.

This Week in Washington: House and Senate not in session, U.S. reaches debt-ceiling limit



Congress

House

Rep. Frank Pallone Questions FDA and NIH Over Federally Funded Clinical Trial Reporting Compliance

On Jan. 19, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), raising concerns over whether medical product sponsors are submitting federally funded clinical trial results to the ClinicalTrials.gov database. Medical products sponsors are required to submit clinical trial results to the federal database, in order to provide healthcare providers and researchers with safety and efficacy information. A recent study revealed that up to 31 percent of clinical trials are going unreported.

Senate not in session.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.

This Week in Washington: House assigns members to committees and finalizes committee chairmanships



Congress

House

House Passes Abortion Bill

On Jan. 11, the House of Representatives approved a bill on a vote of 220-210 that would require infants born alive after an attempted abortion receive the same protection under the law and degree of care as any newborn. Medical providers could face up to five years in prison for failing to resuscitate babies born alive during abortions. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) joined Republicans while Rep. Vicente González (D-TX) voted present. The bill is not expected to pass the Senate.

Senate not in session.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.

This Week in Washington: 118th Congress begins, House finally chooses Speaker



Congress

House

House Names Speaker

Although in the past, members of Congress are generally sworn in following the selection of a Speaker, the need for 15 ballots to choose a Speaker delayed this important step. On Jan. 9, it is expected that the House will finalize choosing members to be chairman of committees for which there is a race. The Ways and Means Committee is one such committee.

Rep. Frank Pallone Releases Names of Democratic Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Staff Leadership

On Jan. 3, House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) announced the names of the Democratic committee staff that will lead the minority staff for the Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittees during the 118th Congress. They are as follows:

Jennifer Epperson – Communications and Technology Subcommittee
Lisa Hone – Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee
Tuley Wright – Energy Subcommittee
Caitlin Haberman – Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee
Una Lee – Health Subcommittee
Will McAuliffe – Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee

Senate

Sen. Bernie Sanders Takes Over as Senate HELP Committee Chair

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will chair the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee for the 118th Congress. As chair, Sanders has vowed to challenge drug manufacturers, insurers and work for lower prescription drug costs.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.

This Week in Washington: All Efforts Are on Funding the Government Through the Rest of the Fiscal Year



Congress

House

House Passes Short-Term Funding CR

On Dec. 14, the House of Representatives passed a short-term funding bill to avoid a government shutdown since the existing Continuing Resolution would run out on Dec. 16. The Senate passed the short-term CR on Dec. 15. The federal government is now funded until Dec. 23.

In the House, nine Republicans voted with Democrats in supporting the measure after GOP leadership urged Republican members to oppose the short-term CR. 

It is hoped that the language for the CR to fund the federal government through the rest of the fiscal year will be released Dec. 19.

House Passes Bipartisan Jackie Walorski Maternal and Child Home Visiting Reauthorization Act of 2022

On Dec. 2, the U.S. House passed the Jackie Walorski Maternal and Child Home Visiting Reauthorization Act of 2022 with a 390-26 vote. The bipartisan bill will reauthorize the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program for an additional five years. The bill will specifically increase funding for services that support new parents and their children from pregnancy through kindergarten, with in-home support that has been shown to improve maternal and child health, family safety, family stability, child development and school readiness. It will also update the MIECHV Program to improve outcomes for families, state accountability and access to MIECHV funds.

For more information, click here.

Senate

Senators Push Legislation to Preserve Provider Bonus Payment

On Dec. 15, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced “the Preserving Access to Value-Based Care Act” to save the bonus that goes away in 2023 for providers. The 5 percent bonus went to providers who agreed to sign up in an alternative payment model.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.

This Week in Washington: Waiting for the election results from Georgia Senate race; mental health legislation continues to be discussed and CBO publishes option book

Congress

House

House Rules Committee Meets to Determine Rule for House Consideration of the Jackie Wolerski Maternal and Child Home Visiting Reauthorization Act of 2022

On Nov. 29, the House Rules Committee met to determine the rule by which the Jackie Walorski Maternal and Child Home Visiting Reauthorization Act of 2022 will be considered on the House floor. The legislation reauthorizes MIECHV for five years, increasing the annual funding level to $800 million in 2027 and providing increased investment in home visiting in every state and territory. It also updates program policies to provide an even stronger focus on improving outcomes for families and to provide clarity and stability for successful state and territorial programs.

Senate

Senate Finance Committee Looks at Medicare Advantage and Medicaid Managed Care “Ghost Networks”

On Dec.1, the Senate Finance Committee released its fifth and final mental health discussion draft. The draft would eliminate “ghost networks” by requiring Medicare Advantage (MA) plans and Medicaid managed care organizations to regularly update their provider directories. The draft legislation would also require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to compare Medicaid payments for behavioral health services with reimbursement for medical or surgical services, as well as compare MA mental and physical health benefits. Additionally, the bill would require MA plans to update a provider’s status in the insurer’s directory within two days and have the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) collect those directories to post on a public website.

For more information, click here.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) Introduces Bill to Increase Competition in Biological Drug Market

On Nov. 17, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Biosimilar Red Tape Elimination Act to increase competition in the biological drug market. The bill would prohibit the FDA from requiring biosimilars to undergo switching studies to receive an “interchangeable” designation.

Unlike generic drugs, many states will not allow pharmacists to substitute a biosimilar unless the FDA declares it to be “interchangeable.” The legislation would allow pharmacists to substitute biosimilars in lieu of the branded version.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.

This Week in Washington: Congress returns to complete appropriations and year-end legislation.

Congress

House

Expected Committee Changes in Health-Related Committees

With party control changing in the House, there will be changes in who leads the health-related committees. At the House Ways and Means Committee, now-Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) will become the ranking member. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) is expected to become chair. For the last year, he has been the ranking member of the committee’s subcommittee on Health.

At the House Energy and Commerce Committee, now-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) will become the ranking member, and the current ranking member, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), will become chair. These changes will have to be approved by the Republican caucus.

The Senate will see some changes despite Democrats’ remaining in control. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is expected to take the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee. That means that Sen. Bernie Sanders is next in line to be chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Because the current ranking member, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), is retiring, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) is expected to become ranking member of the HELP Committee. Sen. Cassidy is a physician and also serves on the Senate Finance Committee.

Senate

Senate Finance Committee Releases Discussion Draft on Mental Health

On Nov. 10, the Senate Finance Committee released its fourth discussion draft concerning mental health provisions for possible inclusion in an end-of-year bill.

The draft legislation would:

  • Clarify that peer support specialists can provide behavioral health integration services to Medicare beneficiaries
  • Increase Medicare payment rates for behavioral health integration services from 2026 through 2027
  • Direct CMS to create a single global payment under the physician fee schedule to fund mobile crisis response team services including screening and assessment
  • Require CMS to create bundled payments for crisis stabilization services for Medicare beneficiaries

For more information, click here.

Senate Finance Committee Democrats Urge CMS to Release New Medicare Advantage Marketing Rules Quickly

On Nov. 15, Democratic Senate Finance Committee members, led by Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Bob Casey (D-PA), urged CMS to release regulations as soon as possible to enhance oversight of Medicare Advantage marketing. Earlier, the committee released a report revealing instances of Medicare Advantage marketing fraud in 14 states. Senate Democrats are urging CMS to increase consumer protections through notice-and-comment rulemaking as soon as possible. They are also calling on Congress to fully fund the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP).

For more information, click here.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.

This Week in Washington: Countdown to Election Day- Focus on polls, campaigns and who will be in control of the House and Senate

Congress
House

The House is in recess until Nov. 14

Senate

The Senate is in recess until Nov. 14

Senators Write USTR to Urge Protection of American Innovation in Therapeutics and Diagnostics

U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) led a bipartisan group of senators in writing U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to urge the Biden Administration to safeguard American innovation in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) negotiations on whether to expand its waiver of IP rights enforcement for COVID-19 vaccines to also include therapeutics and diagnostics. Senators Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) also signed onto the letter.

In June 2022, WTO members agreed to waive obligations under the WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement for COVID-19 vaccine patent subject matter for a five-year period. This requires the United States to not enforce certain IP rights on behalf of U.S.-based companies at the WTO. The expansion under consideration would enable eligible WTO member countries to ignore otherwise enforceable intellectual property (IP) protections for therapeutics and diagnostics that treat COVID-19.

GOP Senators Ask FDA to Increase Focus Non-Opioid Pain Medication

On Oct. 19, Sens. James Lankford (R-OK), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) wrote the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf asking that the FDA increase focus on development of non-opioid pain medication. They note that no non-opioid alternative for pain management was approved in 2021. In 2018, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act required FDA issue guidance addressing challenges in non-addictive pain therapies and to assist drug developers in creating non-opioid alternatives for acute and chronic pain management. The FDA did publish draft guidance in February, but the senators state the FDA has not met the requirements of the legislation fully. The senators asked that they be responded to by Nov. 9.

CBO Looks At Doctors’ Reimbursement and Access

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) included “analyzing how the amount physicians are paid for services affects access to care for dual-eligible beneficiaries (people dually enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid) compared with Medicare-only beneficiaries” on a recently released list of its ongoing projects.

This comes as MedPAC, the congressional advisory panel on Medicare reimbursement, is also looking at how to raise reimbursement for safety net doctors. At its most recent meeting, MedPAC discussed four ways to target funds for providers caring for patients with low-income subsidies.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.

This Week in Washington: Treasury Finalizes “Family-Glitch” Fix

Congress

House

Progressive Caucus Members Announce Bill to Rename Medicare Advantage

Two members of the House Progressive Caucus announced they will introduce legislation that would change the name of Medicare Advantage (MA) in order to make clear that MA plans are offered by private insurers. They believe that seniors may be misled into enrolling into MA plans.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), a former chair of the caucus, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA). In addition to changing the name of the program, the legislation would impose financial penalties on private insurers using the term “Medicare” in plan names.

The bill comes as the issue of how best to strengthen Medicare is already shaping up to be a midterm election issue. The administration has been promoting the Medicare drug-price controls included in the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act as a major effort to strengthen the program, while Republican lawmakers blast the IRA provisions as anti-competitive.

A majority of Medicare beneficiaries are projected to be enrolled in Medicare Advantage by next year.

Senate

The Senate is in recess and will return Nov. 14.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.

This Week in Washington: Congress Passes Continuing Resolution until Dec. 16; House Leaves Until After Election; Senate to be Back Mid-October. 

Congress

House

Following the Senate’s vote on Sept. 29, a Continuing Resolution funding the government through Dec 16 passed the House on Sept. 30 by 230-201. Ten Republicans joined Democrats to pass the legislation to fund the government through Dec. 16. The Senate passed the legislation 72-25.

The CR was stalled in the Senate because of provisions related to speed up permitting for energy projects, which had been included because a vote on the provisions had been promised to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). After Sen. Manchin requested the provisions be removed so they did not stall the CR further, the bill gained bipartisan support.

Included in the CR were an additional $62 million for the 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline’s prevention and behavioral health services, and an extension of enhanced Medicaid federal matching assistance program for Puerto Rico and other territories. Extensions were also included for the Medicare low-volume payment program, and the drug user fees for the Food and Drug Administration. 

Mental Health Matters Act Passes

In a mostly party line 220-205 vote, the House passed the Mental Health Matters Act, which addresses the “severe impact” COVID-19 had on students, educators and families by putting more mental health experts in schools and expanding that pipeline of school-based professionals. 

One Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), voted for the legislation, which would provide grants to establish a pipeline for school-based mental health service professionals. The Department of Education would administer the grants.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.