House to Vote on Pelosi Drug Pricing Bill This Week
On Dec. 5, it was announced that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) drug pricing bill, H.R. 3, will be voted on next week in the full House. As of now, there is no complete score of projected savings from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) before the vote occurs. CBO has only evaluated the part of H.R. 3 that allows for direct government negotiation of some Medicare drug prices.

Progressive House Democrats are concerned that a provision by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) added to the bill will dropped before the final bill goes to the House floor. The provision directs the federal government to examine how to require drug manufacturers to refund money to employer-sponsored health plans when the companies raised prices above the rate of inflation. Then regulations would have to be issued based on the study.

Pallone Works With FDA to Modify Cosmetics Bill, Eyes Preemption
On Dec. 4, House Energy & Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) said he has been working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Republican members, as well as stakeholders, to modify his bill, the Cosmetic Safety Enhancement Act of 2019. The changes would increase the FDA’s power to regulate cosmetics and shift the ingredient review and user fee language. Pallone added that he is open to adding some type of preemption clause. Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) asked Pallone to add language preempting states’ cosmetics laws, and said whatever bill is voted on also should avoid burdening small businesses.


Senate Finance Releases Updated Drug Pricing Bill
On Dec. 6, the Senate Finance Committee’s Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) released an updated version of the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2019. The bill now reduces senior’s Part D coinsurance, allows seniors to pay capped catastrophic costs over the year and moves part of the drug manufacturers’ share of seniors’ retail drug costs from the catastrophic phase of the program to the initial coverage phase. The changes resulted from an agreement after working with the Trump administration on updating the bill. The changes build off of the $25 billion reduction in beneficiary Part D cost-sharing (over a 10-year period) generated by the committee-reported bill by further reducing beneficiary costs on out-of-pocket spending. Find the new text here.

Wyden, Booker Ask CMS, FTC and Health Care Companies to Evaluate Bias in AI Tools
On Dec. 3, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) sent letters to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the executives of UnitedHealth Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna Corporation, Humana and Aetna asking them to ensure artificial intelligence tools used in health care are not biased. The letters warn that biased artificial intelligence algorithms can pose threats to marginalized communities by denying them care. In the letter to the health plans, the senators asked what artificial intelligence tools they use, what algorithms they use and why, and what efforts they make to combat biases. The senators asked for responses by Dec. 31 of this year. Find the letter to CMS here. Find the letter to the FTC here. Find the letter to the chosen executives here.

Senate HELP Sends Nomination for FDA Commissioner to Senate Floor
On Dec. 3, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 18-5 in favor of Stephen Hahn’s nomination as FDA commissioner. The nomination will now go to the Senate floor for a final vote.

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