House Energy and Commerce Committee: Full Committee Markup
The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a full committee markup and favorably reported all 26 health-related bills to the House floor with bipartisan support. The legislation included expanding access to mental health services, combating the opioid epidemic, reauthorizing key public health programs, improving Medicare enrollment, streamlining public health data sharing for Tribes and facilitating access to marijuana for research. Find more information and summary of the legislation here.

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP): Vaccines – Saving Lives, Ensuring Confidence, and Protecting Public Health
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a full committee hearing for updates on how far along the government and its industry partners are in working to prevent, diagnose and treat COVID-19. The focus of the hearing was an upcoming vaccine for COVID-19. Find more information here.

Why this is important: The panel repeated to the committee that none of the safety and efficacy assessments would be skipped or abbreviated in creating a COVID-19 vaccine. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), efforts to shorten the timeline, but still achieve a safe and effective vaccine, are based in eliminating downtimes and assuming the costs of at-risk manufacturing.


Congress Negotiating a Continuing Resolution to Fund Government until 2021
On Sept. 8, the Trump administration and congressional leaders tentatively agreed to work on a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open past Sept. 30 when current appropriations are due to expire. The CR would fund the government at 2020 levels until Congress passes a full appropriation bill for fiscal year 2021. The Trump administration included a list of items known as “anomalies” that it wants Congress to address in the CR. The Trump administration wants funding for Medicare and Medicaid extenders, most of which are set to run through Nov. 30, as well as a provision to extend funding for the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) rare pediatric disease priority review voucher program.


GOP Coronavirus Relief Package Fails to Pass Senate
On Sept. 10, a slimmed-down version of the Senate Republicans’ coronavirus relief bill failed to pass in the Senate after a vote to end debate on the legislation failed, 52-47. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced the package that included liability protections for health care facilities, paycheck protection program money and funding for state COVID-19 testing. The total cost of the bill was about $500 billion, about half of what Republicans initially proposed earlier this summer.

Warren, Casey Release Report on USPS Delivery of Prescription Drugs Delayed by Postmaster’s Changes
On Sept. 10, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bob Casey (D-PA) released a report that mail deliveries of prescription drugs are running on average about a day later than usual due to recent actions by U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Some deliveries are delayed upwards of seven days, which the senators say could lead to seniors’ not receiving medicines when they need them and cause health care costs to rise.  Deliveries of prescription drugs by the Postal Service (USPS) took 18 percent to 32 percent longer after DeJoy began implementing new changes at the Postal Service, according to pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) surveyed by the senators. Find the report here.

Carper, Cassidy Lead Bipartisan Letter to CDC, HHS for Improvement and Modernization of COVID-19 Data Collection and Management
On Sept. 8, Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) led a bipartisan group of senators in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve, automate and modernize COVID-19 data collection and management. The senators asked HHS and CDC to use technologically advanced systems and build on existing data sources in order to provide public health officials and community leaders with more accurate, real-time information as they make decisions about reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find the letter here.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.