This Week in Washington: Congress passes continuing resolution; CMS releases final rule concerning prior authorization.

Congress

House

The House is in district work week.

Congress Passes Continuing Resolution

On Jan. 18, the House and Senate passed a continuing resolution (CR) and averted a partial government shutdown. The CR will maintain staggered funding deadlines and will extend funding to March 1 and 8. Funding had originally been scheduled to expire on Jan. 19 and Feb. 2.

Funding for the departments of Agriculture, Energy, Veterans Affairs, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development has been extended to March 1 and funding for the departments of Commerce, Justice, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, Labor, Education and Health and Human Services has been extended to March 8. The CR notably extends healthcare extenders such as funding for community health centers, teaching hospitals and diabetes programs and a delay of Medicaid disproportionate hospital share cuts.

House Budget Committee Favorably Reports Fiscal Commission Act of 2024

On Jan. 18, the House Budget Committee marked up and reported out of committee H.R. 5779, the Fiscal Commission Act of 2024. The legislation would create a bipartisan debt commission, which would be tasked with addressing the national debt and making spending and revenue reform recommendations. Some Democrats and Medicare advocates argue that the bill will fast-track cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

In addition to H.R. 5779, the committee also reported H.R. 6952, the Fiscal State of the Nation Act and H.R. 6957, the Debt to GDP Transparency and Stabilization Act out of committee.

For more information, click here.

Senate

Senate HELP Committee to Vote on Issuing Subpoenas to Pharmaceutical Company CEOs

On Jan. 18, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced that the committee will vote on Jan. 31 on whether to issue subpoenas for Johnson and Johnson chief executive officer (CEO) Joaquin Duato and Merck CEO Robert Davis to testify before the committee concerning the higher prices they charge for medicine in the U.S. compared to other countries.

For more information, click here.

Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Seeks Information on Pharmacy 340B Revenue

On Jan. 17, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) sent letters to president and chief executive officer (CEO) of CVS Health Karen Lynch and Walgreens CEO Tim Wentworth, requesting they submit information on CVS Health’s and Walgreens’ participation in the 340B Drug Discount Program.

The ranking member has been investigating how healthcare providers use revenue generated from the 340B program and is interested in understanding how major contract pharmacies generate revenue and whether that revenue is directly benefiting patients.

For more information, click here.

Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing on Long COVID

On Jan. 18, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on Long COVID and discussed how Long COVID research and patient care could be improved. Witnesses included:

  • Angela Meriquez Vázquez, M.S.W., Long COVID Patient
  • Rachel Beale, M.B.A., Long COVID Patient
  • Nicole Heim, Parent of Long COVID Patient
  • Michelle Harkins, M.D., University of New Mexico Professor of Medicine
  • Ziyad Al-Aly, M.D., Clinical Epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis
  • Charisse Madlock-Brown, Ph.D., University of Iowa Associate Professor of Health Informatics
  • Tiffany Walker, M.D., Emory University School of Medicine Assistant Professor

For more information, click here.

Health Care PRICE Transparency Act 2.0 Introduced

On Jan. 10, Sens. Braun (R-IN), Grassley (R-IA), Smith (D-MN) and Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the Health Care PRICE Transparency Act 2.0.

The legislation seeks to strengthen the transparency of healthcare pricing by:

  • Requiring machine-readable files of all negotiated rates and cash prices between plans and providers;
  • Requiring actual prices for 300 shoppable services to be published, with all services by 2025;
  • Increasing maximum annual penalties to $10,000,000;
  • Codifying the Transparency in Coverage rule; and
  • Providing group health plans the right to access, audit and review claims encounter data.

For more information, click here.

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