House Energy & Commerce, Subcommittee on Health: “Investing in America’s Healthcare”

The Health Subcommittee of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on health care extenders, discussing the following legislation:

  • H.R. 1767, the “Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act”
  • H.R. 1943, the “Community Health Center and Primary Care Workforce Expansion Act of 2019”
  • H.R. 2328, the “Community Health Investment, Modernization, and Excellence Act of 2019”
  • H.R. 2668, the “Special Diabetes Program Reauthorization Act of 2019”
  • H.R. 2680, the “Special Diabetes Programs for Indians Reauthorization Act of 2019”
  • H.R. 2815, the “Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act of 2019”
  • H.R. 2822, the “Family-to-Family Reauthorization Act of 2019”
  • H.R. 3022, the “Patient Access Protection Act”
  • H.R. 3029, the “Improving Low Income Access to Prescription Drugs Act of 2019”
  • H.R. 3030, the “Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Extension Act of 2019”
  • H.R. 3031, a bill to amend Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to extend funding for quality measure endorsement, input and selection under the Medicare program
  • H.R. 3039, a bill to provide for a five-year extension of funding outreach and assistance for low-income programs

Why this is important: The majority of the House has asked House leadership to move legislation delaying cuts in DSH payments scheduled for Oct. 1. The majority of members supports delaying the cuts by an additional two years.

At the hearing, most members agreed that extending funding for community health centers, the National Health Services Corps and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program for more than two years is a priority, but some House Republicans held concern about increasing funding with no offsets.  

Read witness testimonies and the full hearing.


Bipartisan Bill Unveiled to Repeal Ban on Physician-Owned Hospitals

On June 5, House Energy & Commerce health subcommittee ranking Republican Michael Burgess (TX) and Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX) announced a bipartisan bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) ban on new physician-owned hospitals. H.R. 3062, the Patient Access to Higher Quality Health Care Act of 2019 would eliminate the restrictions that put a moratorium on physician-owned hospitals and limited the expansion of most grandfathered physician-owned hospitals. Read the bill.

House Passes Pandemic Preparedness Bill

On June 4, the House passed by voice vote the Senate’s Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act (PAHPAI). The legislation reauthorizes HHS efforts to respond to disasters, emerging infectious diseases and chemical/biologicals threats. The bill authorizes funds to encourage new antibiotics and stockpile critical medicines and authorizes a range of state and local disaster responses. It was delayed in passing the Senate because of issues related to over-the-counter drug reform which had been included in the House version. The final version of the pandemic legislation does not include the reform of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) over-the-counter (OTC) drug regulatory framework that was part of the House’s original pandemic bill. Because it was left out of the final bill, the OTC reform legislation will now have to pass through Congress on its own or be attached to a different vehicle, although it is not clear whether it is a priority at the moment.

House Appropriations Sends Agriculture-FDA Spending Bill to Floor

On June 4, the House Appropriations Committee approved its Agriculture-FDA spending bill 29-21. The bill includes a total of $24.3 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is $5.1 billion more than the Trump administration requested in its budget plan. The committee adopted by voice vote an amendment that blocks the use of funds for reviewing research into genetically modifying human embryos. The bill would also boost the FDA’s taxpayer funding by $185 million and includes language urging the FDA to expedite pre-market review of e-cigarettes, establish a track-and-trace system for tobacco products and expand the “Real Cost” anti-tobacco ad campaign that targets teens. An amendment introduced by Rep. Aderholt to raise the tobacco purchasing age to 21 and to limit online e-cigarette sales failed in a 23-27 recorded vote.


Senate Finance Adds Health Insurance Tax to List of Fees Needing Permanent Fix

On June 6, a Senate Finance Committee task force added the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) health insurance tax to the list of health fees for which it is seeking a permanent fix. The fee applies to nearly all health issuers, including Medicaid managed care and Medicare Advantage plans, and is apportioned based on market share. The tax was to bring in $8 billion in 2014 and $14.3 billion in 2018, and it was indexed to premium growth post-2018. However, Congress paused the tax in 2017 and then again for 2019.

Coons Says Patent Draft Bill Would Not Allow Gene Patenting

On June 4, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said a draft bill aiming to broadly reform how patents are granted would not allow for the patenting of individual, isolated genes. The draft eliminates a restriction on patenting broad categories of intellectual property such as “abstract ideas,” “laws of nature” or “natural phenomena.” It would establish a new benchmark involving “specific and practical utility in any field of technology through human intervention.” The draft bill text to reform Section 101 of the Patent Act was released on May 22 by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Coons. Reps. Doug Collins (R-GA), Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Hank Johnson (D-GA) introduced a companion to the Coons-Tillis bill in the House. Read the draft bill.