This Week: The government shutdown continues; Congress finishes organizing and finalizing committee members and begins to focus on the issues. Concern has been raised that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Center is trying to bypass Congress in health policy.


Cummings Launches Drug-Pricing Investigation Prior to Hearings
On Jan. 14, House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) launched an investigation into brand drug manufacturers’ pricing practices weeks before he holds the first in a series of hearings on rising drug prices, Jan. 29. Cummings asked 12 brand drug manufacturers for information on pricing practices and research and development investments. The investigation focuses on the most expensive drugs for beneficiaries, the costliest drugs to Part D and drugs that have had the biggest price increases over the past five years. Many of those drugs treat diabetes, cancer and arthritis.

Energy and Commerce Democrats Focus on Market Stabilization Measures
On Jan. 16, the House Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) announced the subcommittee is likely to hold oversight hearings on the Trump administration’s changes to the current health system. Rep. Anna Eschoo (D-CA), chair of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, announced that Medicare for All hearings would be held only if time remains after focusing on the Affordable Care Act issues and drug pricing.


Senate Passed Medicaid Extender Legislation
On Jan. 17, the Senate passed by voice vote a bill that would extend two Medicaid provisions:

  • A nearly three-month extension of spousal impoverishment rules to let married couples protect certain assets while seeking Medicaid coverage for home- and community-based services.
  • Funding for a three-month extension of the Money Follows the Person demonstration that helps state Medicaid programs transition older adults and people with chronic illnesses back into their communities.

The House passed the same legislation last week, so the legislation now goes to the President to be signed into law.

Senate Rejects Government-Wide Ban on Abortion Funding
On Jan. 18, the Senate rejected a bill that would permanently ban the use of federal funding for abortions in programs such as Medicaid. The procedural vote, needed to begin debate on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, failed 48-47, with 60 votes needed to begin debate.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.