Senate Committee on the Judiciary: “The State of Patent Eligibility in America: Part III”

Tuesday, June 11, 2019: The Senate Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property held a hearing continuing its work on patent eligibility, with a large panel of witnesses, most of whom are arguing in favor of statutory reform that would tighten up the law of eligibility. Find the draft bill here. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates as they become available here

Why this is important: Chairman Thom Tillis (R-NC) The hearing was the final gathering before the subcommittee alters the draft bill that would undo U.S. Supreme Court decisions and expand patent eligibility.

Senate Committee on the Judiciary: “Your Doctor/Pharmacist/Insurer Will See You Now: Competitive Implications of Vertical Consolidation in the Healthcare Industry”

Wednesday, June 12, 2019: The Senate Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights held a hearing on how vertical consolidation practices in the health care industry could threaten competition. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates as they become available here.

Why this is important: While the witness panel saw benefits to vertical mergers done properly, there was warning that efficiencies in vertical mergers can be over-hyped, as the benefits are not, statistically speaking, likely to be achieved. Witnesses encouraged more transparency to attorneys during mergers, which could address legality concerns. The panel ultimately warned that while most vertical mergers do not impair competition, it should not be assumed that all are benign, and that significant efficiencies will always be realized, or that cost savings will be passed along to consumers. A broad agreement for more oversight and regulatory measures was called for.  

House Ways and Means Committee: “Pathways to Universal Health Coverage”

Wednesday, June 12, 2019: The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the single-payer issue, marking the first time in decades that one of the two main health care committees of jurisdiction will hold a hearing on the topic. The hearing will also discuss other ways to achieve universal coverage. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates here.

Why this is important: Democratic members stayed unified on the need for universal coverage.  Republicans spent their time speaking against Medicare for All, which was not the sole subject of the hearing. Some Democratic members asked about Medicare and Medicaid buy-ins and opportunities for states to expand health coverage, and rebutted Republicans’ statements about how single-payer health care approaches would cause irreparable harm to patients and to the economy.

House Energy and Commerce: “No More Surprises: Protecting Patients from Surprise Medical Bills”

Wednesday, June 12, 2019: The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing on surprise medical billing with a goal to protect patients by developing a solution that takes patients out of the middle of pricing issues without increasing health care costs. An unannounced group of stakeholders will testify as the committee considers legislative proposals to address the surprise billing concerns. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates as they become available here.

Why this is important: While all the panelists agreed that patients should not be caught in the middle of surprise billing issues, stakeholders repeated their warnings related to federal involvement. There was agreement on the panel against balanced billing as a solution, and more support for methods of arbitration. Yet, members of the subcommittee were split, with Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) advocating for his own arbitration proposal not yet introduced. Supporters of the Ruiz proposal include Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN), who argued during the hearing that providers need more negotiating power with insurers for higher rates. Rep. Ruiz’ proposal is backed by physician groups and would set up an arbitration model similar to the one hospitals and doctors use in New York and Texas. Members also pressured witnesses about transparency on prices and overall costs.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.