This Week in Washington: House elects new Speaker; Senate HELP Committee advances nomination of NIH Director nominee; House and Senate resume appropriations work.



House Resumes Work on Appropriations Bills

The House is resuming work on appropriations bills following the election of a Speaker. Speaker Johnson has said that he wants to pass a continuing resolution through Jan. or April 15, because it will take time to conference the House and Senate differences on appropriations.

On Oct. 26, the House passed the Energy-Water Development funding bill. This week, the House is expected to consider the Legislative Branch, Interior-Environment and Transportation-HUD funding bills. 

House Budget Committee Healthcare Task Force Holds Roundtable to Discuss CBO New Drug Development Model

On Oct. 26, the House Budget Committee Health Care Task Force held a roundtable with Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Phillip Swagel and drug innovation experts to discuss improvements that could be made to the CBO New Drug Development model. The task force also discussed drug pricing provisions included in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Task Force Chairman Michael Burgess (R-TX) is concerned that the CBO is not adequately assessing the impacts that drug development and innovation legislation have on federal spending.

For more information, click here.

Ninety-One Representatives Send Letter Concerning Nursing Home Staffing Requirement Proposed Rule

On Oct. 20, Rep. Pence (R-IN) led a group of 90 representatives in sending a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra concerning a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed rule that would establish minimum staffing requirements and standards for nursing homes. The members are concerned that the rule may limit seniors’ access to care and lead to widespread nursing home closures. 

For more information, click here.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairmen Warn NIH Over Possible Subpoena

On Oct. 20, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chairman Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) sent a letter to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Acting Director Lawrence Tabak.

The chairmen are warning that the committee will issue a subpoena against the agency if it fails to provide documents concerning NIH mpox gain-of-function research by Oct. 31.

For more information, click here.


Senate Moves Forward with Minibus

On Oct. 24, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) announced that a bipartisan agreement had been reached to move forward with the mini-omnibus appropriations package, which contains the Agriculture-FDA, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD funding bills. The Senate will consider 40 amendments before holding a final vote, which could occur this week.

Senate HELP Committee Favorably Reports Nomination of NIH Director Nominee

On Oct. 25, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 15-6 to favorably report the nomination of Dr. Monica Bertagnolli to become the next National Institutes of Health Director.

Republican and Democratic committee members worked together to pass her nomination out of committee, with Republican Sens. Collins (ME), Murkowski (AK), Romney (UT), Marshall (KS) and Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (LA) voting yes. Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voted against Dr. Bertagnolli, citing his concern over her decision to decline making commitments to lowering prescription drug prices.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sends Letter Concerning Deceptive MA Plan Marketing

On Oct. 25, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) led Democratic committee members in sending a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure urging CMS to implement stronger Medicare Advantage (MA) plan marketing and transparency requirements.

On Oct. 18, the committee held a hearing to discuss ghost networks and deceptive marketing practices used to target MA beneficiaries during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period.

For more information, click here.

Senate HELP Committee Chairman Sends Letter Concerning NIH Exclusive Patent License

On Oct. 23, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General Christi Grimm concerning a National Institutes of Health (NIH) proposal that would grant an exclusive patent license for a cervical cancer therapy to Scarlet Therapeutics.

The Chairman is urging HHS to investigate the proposal and is calling on the NIH to offer a non-exclusive license to allow other manufacturers to produce the cervical cancer therapy.

For more information, click here.

Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Make Permanent Medicaid Option to Treat Adults with Substance Use Disorders in Large Facilities

On Oct. 19, Sens. Thune (R-SD), Hassan (D-NH) and Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the Securing Advances and a Variety of Evidence-Based (SAVE) Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) Options Act, a bill to make permanent the Medicaid option for states to treat adults with substance use disorders in facilities larger than 16 beds. 

This legislation comes several weeks after Congress allowed the SUPPORT Act to expire. Without this state plan amendment pathway, states are bound to the so-called IMD exclusion where they cannot use federal funds to pay for a patient’s behavioral health treatment at a hospital, nursing home or other facility that is more than 16 beds.

The Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act, included a state plan option in Medicaid that allowed federal Medicaid funds to be used for patients in IMD with substance use disorders. 

For more information, click here.

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