Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP): “Lower Health Care Costs Act”
Tuesday, June 18, 2019: The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on the Lower Health Care Costs Act, a bipartisan discussion draft largely concerning drug pricing. The committee requested comment on the draft that addresses surprise medical billing, reforms to prevent anticompetitive behavior in health care markets and a proposal to create a nationwide health care cost transparency organization. The comment period closed on June 5. Find an analysis of the discussion draft by MWC Research Associate Mariam Eatedali here. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates here.

Why this is important: While the hearing’s witnesses were highly supportive of the bill’s provisions regarding the elimination of gag clauses and the building of an all-payer claims database, they disagreed concerning how to determine what should be paid when a claim is out of network. The options discussed were: (1) in-network guarantees, which would require a provider to either join an insurance network or be paid by the hospital; (2) third-party, “baseball style” arbitration; and (3) benchmark payment setting.

Senate Special Committee on Aging: “The Complex Web of Prescription Drug Prices, Part III: Examining Agency Efforts to Further Competition and Increase Affordability
Wednesday, June 19, 2019: The Senate Aging Committee held the third hearing in its series on prescription drug prices, with witnesses testifying from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Inspector General. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates here.

Why this is importantThe committee focused on how drugs become generic and how they are discounted by rebates to patients with health insurance. 

House Committee on Oversight and Reform: “Medical Experts: Inadequate Federal Approach to Opioid Treatment and the Need to Expand Care”
Wednesday, June 19, 2019: The House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on solutions that address the opioid crisis and action that can be taken at the federal level. Witnesses will include a panel of medical experts. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates here.

Why this is important: The witness panel spent the hearing advocating for the committee’s Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act. The bill, H.R. 2569, has an identical bill introduced to the Senate, S. 1365. Both bills are modeled directly on the bipartisan Ryan White Act, which Congress passed in 1990 to help state and local governments combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic and provide the resources and the comprehensive framework to begin treating the opioid crisis like a critical public health emergency.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce:“Strengthening Health Care in the U.S. Territories for Today and Into the Future”
Thursday, June 20, 2019: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Health subcommittee will hold a hearing on long-term health care concerns in U.S. territories. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates here.

Why this is important: The federal funding shortfall in the U.S. territories means most of the territories are not able to provide the full range of benefits that state Medicaid programs are required to cover. Unlike in the states, where the Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP) is not capped, and the federal share varies based on the per capita income of residents of that state, federal funding for Medicaid in the territories is subject to a statutory cap and a fixed federal matching rate. While Congress has provided some time-limited increases to the territories’ Medicaid funding, the committee is seeking a long-term solution.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.