Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP): “COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School”
Thursday, May 12: The Senate HELP committee held a full committee hearing on the country’s transition back to leaving homes for work and school, with a panel that includes Dr. Anthony Fauci from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Robert Redfield from the CDC, Dr. Brett Giroir from HHS and Dr. Stephen Hahn from FDA. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: The subject of the hearing was reopening the economy, but some members of the committee asked about Remdesivir, a drug by Gilead that has shown some promise in treating COVID-19 patients. Democratic members expressed concern on the affordability of the drug, despite the CARES Act’s requiring public and private insurers to cover at no cost vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The members fear higher premiums for Americans.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce: “Protecting Scientific Integrity in the COVID-19 Response”
Thursday, May 14: The Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on protecting scientific transparency and support during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: Dr. Rick Bright, an immunologist for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), issued a warning in testimony before the committee, and alleged in a whistleblower complaint that he was removed from his position for prioritizing science in the government’s coronavirus response, with increased concern for the spread of the virus this coming fall.


House Passes HEROES Act
On May 15, the House passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act), 208-199. The passed legislation omits the Paycheck Guarantee Act, which would have guaranteed 100 percent coverage of workers’ wages up to $90,000 a year, as well omitting $2,000 recurring stimulus checks. The $3 trillion bill includes assistance to state and local governments, hazard pay for frontline health care workers, forgiveness of student debt and bolstering Medicaid and Medicare. The bill would also assist farmers, protect renters and homeowners from evictions and foreclosures, and extend family and medical leave provisions previously approved by Congress. The legislation would also provide relief for essential workers, such as aviation, rail and Amtrak workers, as well as extend work visas for immigrants. It is not expected to pass in the Senate, and the Trump administration has announced that the bill will be vetoed by President Trump if it were to reach his desk.

Ways & Means Chair Asks CMS to Slow Down Allowing Elective Care
On May 8, House Ways & Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) asking to slow down allowing hospitals and health systems to reopen for nonemergency services until facilities meet certain requirements. Neal’s letter is a response to CMS-issued recommendations to facilities on reopening for elective surgeries and non-COVID-19 care in mid-April.


Senate Republicans Release COVID-19 Data Privacy Bill
On May 14, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) released legislation that will give consumers control over how their personal health, device, geolocation and proximity data can be collected. The COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act sets up regulation, under the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), specifying that companies will need to get “affirmative express consent” from individuals in order to collect their data for tracking the spread of COVID-19. The bill is cosponsored by Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Find the bill here.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.