Senate Committee on the Judiciary: “Oversight of the Enforcement of the Antitrust Laws”
Tuesday, July 23, 2019: The Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights held another hearing related to antitrust laws, seeking suggestions on oversight and enforcement at the federal level. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates here.

Why this is important: Members of the committee questioned executives from Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google as part of the investigation into the major tech companies and possible anticompetitive threats posed. Members asked about a range of topics, from digital piracy to the disappearance of Facebook competitor MySpace, as well as Amazon’s competition with sellers that do business on its website. The executives argued that their organizations face robust competition from a variety of entities and that their products and platforms allow other businesses to be successful.

Senate Committee on Finance: “Promoting Elder Justice: A Call for Reform”
Tuesday, July 23, 2019: The Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing examining elder abuse by health care providers. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates as they become available here.

Why this is important: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released reports last week, with representatives testifying that the committee’s reauthorization of the Elder Justice Act should include nursing home reforms. Both the chairman of the committee and the ranking member have decades-long history in nursing home reform. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has agreed to tighten reporting guidance and data requirements for state survey agencies on abuse and neglect in nursing homes following the reports and hearing, yet has not allowed the OIG to examine claims data.

House Ways and Means Committee: “Legislative Hearing on the Social Security 2100 Act”
Thursday, July 25, 2019: The House Ways and Means Committee held another hearing examining H.R. 860, the Social Security 2100 Act, introduced by Rep. John Larson (D-CT). Find the legislation here. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates as they become available here.

Why this is important: The committee held its fourth hearing on the Social Security 2100 Act, sponsored by 210 Democratic members, to expand Social Security benefits across the board. The bill is financed by increases in the 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax rate and phasing out of the current $132,900 salary ceiling on which Social Security taxes apply. The payroll tax would rise by 0.1 percentage point each year. Social Security taxes would also be applied to earnings over $400,000. But since this dollar figure would not be indexed for wage growth, as is the current payroll tax ceiling, over several decades all earnings would be subject to Social Security taxes.

Senate Finance Committee: “Open Executive Session to Consider an Original Bill Entitled the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2019”
Thursday, July 25, 2019: The Senate Finance Committee held a markup on a legislative package to lower the costs of drugs. The legislation is entitled the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2019 (PDPRA), introduced by Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR). Find the hearing and related documents here. Find the CBO score here.

Why this is important: The bill is a bipartisan work product of the chairman and the ranking member. The bill, which would cap what Medicare beneficiaries pay for prescription drugs at $3,100 a year beginning in 2022 and would cap drug costs by requiring drug manufacturers to give rebates to Medicare if they increase their prices above inflation, was favorably reported to the Senate floor by a 19-9 vote. An effort by Republicans to throw out the inflation cap piece of the bill narrowly lost by a 14-14 vote. Republicans said they opposed the provision out of concern that it is government price setting of prescription drugs. The director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) testified that the bill does not set drug prices, and only limits subsidies, which in turn will affect drug prices. The CBO score reported that the bill would save beneficiaries $27 billion in out-of-pocket costs.

House Committee on Oversight and Reform: “The Patient Perspective: The Devastating Impacts of Skyrocketing Drug Prices on American Families”
Friday, July 26, 2019: The House Committee on Oversight and Reform held another hearing on rising drug prices. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates here.

Why this is important: Since January, the committee has investigated pharmaceutical companies raising drug prices. On average, these prices escalated at five times the rate of inflation. The committee heard from a witness panel of patients who rely on medications with increasingly unaffordable prescriptions.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.