This week in Washington: Hearings continue on the price of prescription drugs, Senate Committee on Finance to hold a hearing on Medicare physician payment reform, while the Senate HELP Committee will hold its second hearing in a series on electronic health information and further implementing the 21st Century Cures Act.


House Committee on Rules: “Hearing on the Medicare for All Act of 2019,” H.R. 1384
Tuesday, April 30, 2019: The House Committee on Rules held a hearing on the Medicare for All Act of 2019. This hearing will be the first time Congress has ever held a hearing on Medicare for All. The Rules Committee typically holds hearings when a bill has been considered by other committees, gone through a markup process and been sent to Rules to determine how the bill will be considered on the House floor. However, Speaker Pelosi promised Medicare for All supporters that the Rules Committee and the Budget Committee would hold hearings. The House Budget Committee is likely to hold a hearing next month. Find the full hearing and witness testimonies here.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce: “The Payment of Prescription Drugs in Medicare Parts B & D”
Tuesday, April 30, 2019: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on the cost of drugs in Medicare Part B and Part D. The hearing covers Medicare’s prescription drug programs as the Health Subcommittee looks at proposals to strategically improve coverage and lower costs for seniors. Find the full hearing and witness testimonies here. Find a summary of the hearing here.

House Judiciary Committee: Markup on CREATES Act, Pay-for-Delay Legislation
Tuesday, April 30, 2019: The House Judiciary Committee held a markup and voted to send four drug-pricing and competition bills to the House floor, including pay-for-delay legislation, the CREATES Act and a bill that would allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to crack down on brand drug manufacturers’ use of sham citizen petitions to delay generic drug competition. The committee also voted in favor of Chair Jerry Nadler’s (D-NY) Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act, which allows the FTC to penalize companies that reach patent dispute settlements that delay generic or biosimilar competition.

All bills were favorably reported to the House with no added amendments, and by unanimous voice vote:

  • H.R. 965, the “CREATES Act”
  • H.R. 2375, the “Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act”
  • H.R. 2374, the “Stop Significant and Time-wasting Abuse Limiting Legitimate Innovation of New Generics Act”
  • H.R. 2376, the “Prescription Pricing for People Act of 2019”

The House Energy & Commerce Committee passed a version of the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act with bipartisan amendments earlier this month. Find the full markup here.

Upcoming Hearings/Markups


Senate Democrats Introduce the “Choose Medicare Act”
On May 1, Sens. Chris Murphy (CT) and Jeff Merkley (OR), alongside Democratic colleagues, introduced the “Choose Medicare Act,” which allows anyone not on Medicare or Medicaid to enroll in Medicare, and gives employers the option to offer Medicare to employees instead of, or in addition to, private insurance. The list of 15 cosponsors includes: Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM). Monitor the bill here.


House to Vote on Two Drug Pricing Bills This Week
On May 3, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) confirmed that the House will vote on two prescription drug-pricing bills this week with the intent to make it easier for generic and biosimilar drug manufacturers to access information on drug patents and marketing exclusivity.

  • H.R. 1503 – The Orange Book Transparency Act of 2019 makes changes to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) “orange” book to provide better information on brand drug and patent exclusivity. Monitor the bill here.
  • H.R. 1520 – The Purple Book Continuity Act of 2019 update the FDA’s “purple” book on patents and exclusivity for biologic medicines. Monitor the bill here.

CBO Releases Report on Single-Payer Health Care System Designs
At the request of the House Budget Committee Chairman, John Yarmouth (D-KY), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) created a report on design considerations and consequential factors of the single-payer health care debate. This report was released on May 1. The report provides Congress with a neutral framework for approaching single-payer proposals. While CBO’s assessment explicitly refrains from specifics, it did outline factors to consider, and possible issues faced, when designing, implementing or transitioning to single-payer health care.

Key considerations to note:

  • The report addresses whether or not unauthorized immigrants would be eligible for universal health care coverage, a population that averaged 11 million people per month in 2018.
  • A public plan means increased cost and provides a specified set of health care services to all eligible enrollees, meaning participants would not have a choice of insurer or health benefits like those that they do now.

Find the full report here.

Read more in healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.