This week in Washington: Debt ceiling measure signed by President Biden; default averted for at least a month. Discussions about budget reconciliation continue.


House Passes Debt Ceiling Extension
On Oct. 12, the House voted to pass legislation to raise the U.S. debt ceiling through Dec. 3. The bill passed the Senate the previous week. The measure was signed by President Biden on Oct. 14. With this action, a default is avoided for at least a month.

Speaker Pelosi Says Congress Will Fund Reconciliation Measures for Shorter Time Frame
On Oct. 12, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stated that Congress will likely vote on a smaller reconciliation package that funds policy priorities for a shorter period of time than was previously planned. The time frame will be decreased in order to reduce the overall cost of the bill while maintaining the original programs.

Energy and Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee to Discuss Public Health Legislation
On Oct. 20, the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health will meet to discuss public health legislation. The bills under consideration can be found below.

  • H. R. 623, the “Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act 2.0”
  • H. R. 1193, the “Cardiovascular Advances in Research and Opportunities Legacy Act”
  • H. R. 1956, the “Increasing Access to Quality Cardiac Rehabilitation Care Act of 2021”
  • H. R. 2161, the “Children and Media Research Advancement Act” or the “CAMRA Act”
  • H. R. 3749, the “Katherine’s Law for Lung Cancer Early Detection and Survival Act of 2021”
  • H. R. 4555, the “Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act of 2021”
  • H. R. 4612, the “Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings Act of 2021” or the “PALS Act”
  • H. R. 5487, the “Stillbirth Health Improvement and Education for Autumn Act of 2021” or the “SHINE for Autumn Act of 2021”
  • H. R. 5551, the “Improving the Health of Children Act”
  • H. R. 5552, the “Lead Poisoning Prevention Act”
  • H. R. 5558, the “Prostate Cancer Prevention Act”
  • H. R. 5561, the “Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act”

95 House Members Ask CMS to Finalize Durable Medical Equipment Proposed Rule
In an Oct. 12 letter, 95 House members asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to finalize the Durable Medical Equipment (DME), Prosthetics, Orthotics and Supplies Proposed Rule. The proposed rule was issued on Oct. 27, 2020 and included a provision to extend the Medicare “50/50” blended rate for DME in rural areas. The letter requested that CMS consider policies to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have access to DME.

Rep. Golden Raises Concern About “Critical Errors” in Reconciliation Medicare Proposal
On Oct. 14, Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) wrote a letter to Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, stating that the current budget reconciliation proposal to add dental, vision and hearing benefits to Medicare is insufficient. In the letter, Rep. Golden said that the flaws in the reconciliation proposal, especially in the dental benefit, should be fixed, even if this results in removing the proposal from the reconciliation package. Rep. Golden stated that while he supports budget reconciliation measures such as adding dental, vision and hearing benefits to Medicare and letting Medicare negotiate lower drug prices, it is important that these measures are done in a responsible manner that strengthens Medicare in the long term. The letter comes as Democrats are facing pressure to reduce the cost of the reconciliation package. The full letter can be found here.


Senate Finance Committee Hearing to Discuss Medicare Drug Price Negotiations
On Oct. 20, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing titled “Health Insurance Coverage in America: Current and Future Role of Federal Programs.” The hearing will include discussions on allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. The witness list includes Linda Blumberg, Fellow at the Urban Institute; Sara Collins, Vice President for Health Care Coverage and Access at The Commonwealth Fund; Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President of the American Action Forum; and Frederick Isasi, Executive Director of Families USA. For more information on the hearing, click here.

Sens. Warren and Grassley Request the Release of Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Proposed Rule
On Oct. 12, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wrote to Acting Food and Drug Administrator (FDA) Janet Woodcock calling on the agency to issue the over-the-counter hearing aid proposed rule before Nov. 6, 2021. The letter notes that in July, President Biden directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to publish a proposed rule on over-the-counter hearing aids within 120 days of the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. The letter can be found here.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.