House Committee on Energy and Commerce: “Confronting a Growing Public Health Threat: Measles Outbreaks in the U.S.”
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019: The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held hearing on the current measles outbreak and response efforts. This hearing focused on the need to combat information that discourages individuals from vaccinating their children. Find a link to witness testimonies, member statements and the hearing live feed here.

Why this is important: Since Jan. 1, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 101 individual measles cases in 10 states. The majority of measles cases have occurred in Clark County, WA, a suburb of Portland, OR, with 53 confirmed measles cases. Of those cases, 47 involved people who were not vaccinated against the disease, and 38 people infected were children between the ages of one and 10.

Senate Finance Committee: “Drug Pricing in America: A Prescription for Change, Part II”
Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019: The second hearing in a series on drug pricing in the Senate Finance Committee included the testimonies of seven drug company executives. Leaders of pharmaceutical companies refused to testify at a previous hearing. The following seven companies were represented at this hearing:

  • AbbVie Inc.
  • AstraZeneca
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Merck & Co., Inc.
  • Pfizer
  • Sanofi

Find a link to witness testimonies, member statements and the hearing live feed here.

Why this is important: The witnesses agreed that prescription drugs should be more affordable for Americans. However, they were reluctant to promise to cut list prices without other reforms. The executives argued that other factors, such as pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that negotiate discounts and insurance coverage, have greater influence on the price consumers pay at the pharmacy counter. They also emphasized drug rebates that do not always reach consumers, payments tied to the value of a drug and more transparency. Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) confirmed that PBM executives will testify next before the committee in the hearing series.


Jayapal Introduces “Medicare for All” Bill
On Feb. 27, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) introduced a bill to transition the health care system to a single-payer “Medicare for All” program funded by the government, with a transition period of two years. Jayapal’s proposal prohibits private insurance that duplicates what is offered through the government Medicare for All program. It also includes long-term care coverage. The plan sunsets Medicare and Medicaid, transitioning enrollees into the new universal plan. It continues, however, the Veterans Affairs (VA) health system and the Indian Health Services program as they exist now. Find and monitor H.R.1384 here.


Capito, Manchin Ask HHS to Align 42 CFR Part 2 with HIPAA
On Feb. 21, West Virginia Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R) and Joe Manchin (D) sent a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, asking HHS to start working on a rule to align the strict 42 CFR Part 2 substance abuse privacy scheme with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The regulation, 42 CFR Part 2, has often been cited as inhibiting the flow of information to providers. During the opioid legislation in the last Congress, an effort was made to address this, but ultimately it was dropped before final passage. HIPPA does not require explicit patient consent each time health records are shared. Find the “Dear Colleague” letter here.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.