This week in Washington: Congress makes agreement on pathway forward to raise the debt ceiling.


House Passes 15 Health Bills
On Dec. 8, the House voted to pass 15 health bills. The bills, with a brief summary, can be found below.

  • The Accelerating Access to Critical Therapies for ALS Act (R. 3537) would award grants to certain small pharmaceutical companies to cover the costs of expanding ALS clinical trial access.
  • The Stillbirth Health Improvement and Education (SHINE) for Autumn Act of 2021 (R. 5487) would authorize states to collect data related to stillbirth risk factors and carry out education efforts.
  • The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2021 (R. 5561) would reauthorize the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) programs at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
  • The Improving the Health of Children Act (R. 5551) would reauthorize the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • The Cardiovascular Advances in Research and Opportunities Legacy (CAROL) Act (R. 1193) would authorize a grant program to study valvular heart disease.
  • The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act (R. 1667) would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to disseminate best practices to improve the mental health resiliency and prevent suicide among healthcare providers.
  • The Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act of 2021 (R. 4555) would require HRSA to establish a public education campaign to increase oral health literacy.
  • The Opioid Prescription Verification Act of 2021 (R. 2355) would develop trainings to help pharmacists verify the identities of people receiving controlled substance prescriptions.
  • The Synthetic Opioid Danger Awareness Act (R. 2364) would require the CDC to carry out a public education campaign on synthetic opioids.
  • The Supporting the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health and the Regan-Udall Foundation for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Act (R. 3743) would increase the FDA’s and NIH’s transfer authority to fund their supporting research foundations.
  • The Collecting and Analyzing Resources Integral and Necessary for Guidance (CARING) for Social Determinants Act of 2021 (R. 3894) would require the HHS Secretary to provide assistance and guidance on how to address social determinants of health within the Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
  • The Social Determinants of Health Data Analysis Act of 2021 (R. 4026) would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on social determinants of health.
  • The Immunization Infrastructure Modernization Act (R. 550) would allocate $400 million in grants to improve immunization information systems.
  • The Maternal Vaccination Act (R. 951) would require the CDC to increase their efforts on maternal vaccinations.
  • The Promoting Resources to Expand Vaccination, Education and New Treatments (PREVENT) for HPV Cancers Act of 2021 (R. 1550) would reauthorize a CDC program that works to promote awareness of HPV.

Reps. Griffith and Latta Introduce Bill to Permanently Schedule Fentanyl-related Substances

On Dec. 8, Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Bob Latta (R-OH) introduced the Halt Lethal Trafficking (HALT) Fentanyl Act (H.R. 2366), which would permanently place fentanyl-related substances on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Releases Report on Drug Pricing and Pharmaceutical Practices

On Dec. 10, the House Oversight and Reform Committee released the final staff report summarizing findings of a three-year investigation into pharmaceutical pricing and business practices. The investigation was launched in January 2019 by the late Committee Chair Elijah E. Cummings. Chair Carolyn Maloney said the committee investigation found that pharmaceutical companies raise prices to meet revenue targets, target the U.S. markets for higher prices and use the patent system to suppress competition, among other things.

The staff report can be found here.

Reps. Bucshon and Buchanan Lead 100 Republican Members in Letter Opposing Federal Vaccine Mandate

On Dec. 6, Reps. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) led a group of 100 Republican House members in writing a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. In the letter, the members state their opposition to the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Medicare and Medicaid service providers. In the letter, members cited concerns that the mandate will contribute to a worsening healthcare workforce shortage.

The letter can be found here.

25 Congressional Tri-Caucus Members Write Speaker Pelosi to Express Concern Regarding Medicare Reimbursement Cuts in the PFS Rule

On Dec. 6, a group of 25 members of the Congressional Tri-Caucus, led by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), Danny Davis (D-IL) and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to express their concern regarding Medicare reimbursement reductions in the 2022 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) Final Rule. The final rule was released on Nov. 2, 2022, by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and would cut Medicare reimbursement for office-based services by 20 percent or more. The members express concern that this would negatively impact health equity.

The letter can be found here.

Rep. Devin Nunes to Retire at the End of the Year

On Dec. 8, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) announced that he would leave his seat in Jan. 2022 to lead former President Trump’s new media company. He has been in Congress since 2003. Rep. Nunes had been in line to be the most senior Republican member of the House Ways and Means Committee.


Senate and House Pass Bill to Phase in Medicare Sequester Cuts

On Dec. 7, the House passed the Protecting Medicare and American Farmers from Sequester Cuts Act. On Dec. 9, the Senate passed the same legislation. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Extend the 2 percent Medicare sequester moratorium until March 31, 2022, re-implementing 1 percent cuts in the second quarter of 2022 and reinstating the 2 percent cut subsequently, funded by backend increased sequester cuts in fiscal year 2030;
  • Adjust the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule conversion factor by 3 percent in calendar year 2022;
  • Delay Protecting Access to Medicare Act (PAMA)-related cuts to clinical laboratory services and the next round of private payer data reporting by one year;
  • Delay implementation of the Medicare Radiation Oncology Model until 2023; and
  • Delay application of 4 percent cuts to Medicare and other federal programs resulting from statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act requirements until calendar year 2023.

Senate Passes Bill Opposing Biden Administration Vaccine Mandate

On Dec. 8, the Senate voted 52-48 to block the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine and testing requirements for private employers. Two Democrats, Reps. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jon Tester (D-MT), sided with Republican senators on the vote. The resolution was brought under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to void federal agency rules within a certain time frame with a majority vote in the House and Senate.

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