This Week in Washington: President Biden Reiterates Healthcare Priorities and Announces Initiatives in his State of the Union Address
The current continuing resolution (CR) funding the government expires on March 11. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House expects to consider an omnibus appropriations bill by March 8. Members were still discussing programmatic funding levels, having already agreed on “top-line” numbers for the different functions of the government. In addition, there are discussions about how to move funding to assist Ukraine. Republicans want to move the assistance as a separate measure.
The president’s request for fiscal year (FY) 2022 supplemental funding for assistance to Ukraine and short-term COVID-19 prevention methods can be found here.
Rep. DeLauro Calls for Investigation of FDA’s Handling of Infant Formula Recall
On March 3, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) wrote to the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requesting an investigation into whether the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took appropriate and timely action in the leadup to the recall of powdered infant formula produced by Abbott Nutrition’s plant in Sturgis, Michigan. Abbott Nutrition announced a recall of several infant formulas on Feb. 17 after consumer complaints of illness brought about by pathogens. However, the FDA was first aware of a case of pathogen contamination related to Abbott formula in September 2021. Rep. DeLauro expressed concern that the FDA acted too slowly in pulling potentially dangerous formula off shelves, potentially leading to additional illness and death.
The letter can be found here.
House Passes the Methamphetamine Response Act
On Feb. 28, the House passed the Methamphetamine Response Act of 2021 which would direct the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to implement a strategy to address the rising use of methamphetamine and would designate methamphetamine as an emerging drug threat. The bill was original introduced by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The bill passed the Senate in December and now goes to President Biden’s desk.
The bill text can be found here.
House Passes the STANDUP Act of 2021
On Feb. 28, the House passed the “Suicide Training and Awareness Nationally Delivered for Universal Prevention (STANDUP) Act of 2021,” which would require state, local and tribal governments that receive funding for mental health to establish and implement suicide awareness and prevention training efforts. The bill has already passed the Senate and now goes to President Biden’s desk.
The bill text can be found here.
House Passes the “Supporting the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health and the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the Food and Drug Administration Act”
On Feb. 28, the House passed the “Supporting the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Act,” which would authorize the NIH and FDA to increase transfer authority to help fund their respective supporting foundations, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) and the Reagan-Udall Foundation. The bill previously passed the Senate, and will now go to President Biden’s desk.
The bill text can be found here.
Senate Passes Bill to End the National Emergency Declaration for COVID-19
On March 3, a measure that would terminate the national emergency declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic passed the Senate with a vote of 48-47. The bill is not likely to pass the House and President Biden has said he would veto the bill.
Senate Passes Joint Resolution to Repeal CMS Vaccine Mandate for Healthcare Workers
On March 2, the Senate voted 49-44 on a joint resolution that would repeal the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rule requiring that healthcare staff be vaccinated against COVID-19. The joint resolution was introduced by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), who argued that the rule would exacerbate staffing shortages. The resolution is not likely to pass the House. The Supreme Court upheld the CMS vaccine rule last month.
Bill to Increase Abortion Protections Fails
On Feb. 28, the “Women’s Health Protection Act” was defeated with a vote of 46-48. The bill, which was passed earlier in the House, would have barred states from restricting abortion both later and earlier in pregnancy, going further than the current Roe v. Wade standard to protect the right to abortion.
The Supreme Court will rule on abortion in the coming months and is expected to limit access.
Sens. Luján and Murphy Introduce Bill to Address Health Misinformation
On March 2, Sens. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced the “Promoting Public Health Information Act,” which would support efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to address misinformation. The bill would establish a Public Health Information and Communications Advisory Committee within HHS and fund awards for initiatives that educate the public and promote fact-based public health.
A press release on the bill can be found here.
Sens. Collins and Capito Call for Stakeholder Input on CMS Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment National Coverage Determination
On March 1, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) wrote to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure calling for stakeholder feedback to be included in CMS’s National Coverage Determination (NCD) for monoclonal antibodies that target amyloid plaque for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. CMS released a draft NCD in January that detailed plans to restrict coverage of monoclonal antibodies targeting amyloid plaque to Alzheimer’s patients who are enrolled in qualified clinical trials. Sens. Collins and Capito called on Administrator Brooks-LaSure to incorporate stakeholder feedback into the final NCD to ensure that it does not result in decreased access to treatment or stifle developments to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
The full letter can be found here.
Sens. Tillis and Blackburn Oppose Use of March-In Rights to Lower Drug Costs
On Feb. 24, Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) wrote to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra urging him to reject the use of the march-in provision of the Bayh-Dole Act to lower the cost of Astellas Pharma’s prostate cancer drug Xtandi. The march-in provision of the Bayh-Dole Act enables small businesses and universities to receive patents and license technology for inventions developed with federal funding, and was only intended to be used when small businesses and universities fail to commercialize these inventions. Sens. Tillis and Blackburn state that using the march-in provisions to lower drug prices would deter investments in drug development and hinder innovation.
Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.