House Committee on Energy and Commerce: “A Public Health Emergency: State Efforts to Curb the Opioid Crisis”
Tuesday, January 14, 2020: The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on actions taken by states to address the current opioid crisis.

Why this is important: Common themes from the witness panel of representatives from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, West Virginia, North Carolina and Rhode Island included an appreciation for federal funding, and requests to ensure that the funding remains stable and expected for many years, reminding the members of the committee that addressing the crisis is a long, but possible, process. The witnesses noted that recovery housing for those addicted to opioids has been helpful, and that key challenges for states is the threat of a small workforce and language barriers. The witnesses noted that in each state, there has been a shift from opioids to other substances (such as alcohol), and an increase in multisubstance and fentanyl overdose deaths specifically but the federal funding can only be used for opioid addiction/treatment in most cases. Yet, programs seem to be working and federal funding remains the foundation of that success.

Find hearing updates and details here.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce: “Cannabis Policies for the New Decade”
Wednesday, January 15, 2020: The Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a legislative hearing to discuss federal cannabis policies, the implications of changing marijuana’s schedule listing and the potential for cannabis research.

Find an overview of the hearing here. Find hearing updates and details here.


Ways and Means Committee Releases Surprise Billing One-Pager
On Jan. 15, Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and ranking member Kevin Brady (R-TX) released a one-page plan to address surprise medical billing. The plan allows providers and insurers to work out billing disputes, with the option of turning to “an independent mediated negotiation process.” The approach contradicts the plan made from a compromise between Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Energy and Commerce ranking member Greg Walden (R-OR). The compromise made last year settles disputes by holding payments to providers to a federal benchmark payment based on median in-network rates. It would allow outside arbitration in some cases, such as for billing disputes over $750. Find the House Ways and Means plan here.


Senate Passes USMCA; Biologic Protections Entirely Dropped
On Jan. 16, the Senate voted 89-10 to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The final version of the deal included the removal of provisions that would have given pharmaceutical companies a 10-year pricing monopoly on biologic drugs in Mexico and Canada. The U.S. has 12-year pricing exclusivity for biologics, and House Democrats negotiated the change after fear that keeping the provisions in the USMCA would prevent future reduction of the U.S. timeframe to less than 10 years. The House passed USMCA last year.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.