House Hearings

House Ways and Means Committee: The Cost of Rising Prescription Drug Prices
On Feb. 12, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the work that would need to be done to pass Medicare price negotiation. Find a link to witness testimonies, member statements and the hearing live feed here.

Why is this important: Health subcommittee Chair Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) promoted his price-negotiation proposal (H.R.1046), yet maintained his stance that he is open to other negotiation models, including compulsory arbitration.

Doggett’s price-negotiation bill is the highest-profile proposal thus far with more than 100 House cosponsors. It allows the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate prices for all drugs, though Republicans largely inquired about how to address the costs of expensive, single-source drugs. House Republicans oppose Medicare negotiation, especially if the plan were to let the government exclude coverage of drugs.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce: Strengthening Our Health Care System—Legislation to Reverse ACA Sabotage and Ensure Pre-Existing Conditions Protections
On Feb. 13, the House Energy and Commerce committee held a hearing on threats to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how to protection patients with pre-existing conditions as a result of ongoing legislation and federal court cases that could dismantle the law.

Why this is important: The House Energy & Commerce Committee identified three pieces of legislation to reverse the Trump administration’s actions to unravel the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The package, which the health subcommittee reviewed at the hearing, would revoke the administration’s short-term plan rule, strike the revised state innovation waiver guidance and restore ACA outreach funding. In addition, there appeared to be bipartisan interest in legislation introduced by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) to inform consumers about the shortcomings of short-term plans. 

The bills reviewed include:

  1. The Protecting Americans with Pre-existing Conditions Act of 2019, (H.R.986), introduced by Democratic Reps. Ann Kuster (NH), Joe Courtney (CT) and Don Beyer (VA).
  2. Legislation to restore ACA market and outreach funding back to $100 million and disallow the money from being used to promote products that do not comply with the ACA (H.R.987), introduced by Democratic Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Dan Kinder (MI), Lucy McBath (GA) and Kathy Castor (FL).
  3. Legislation to overturn the Trump administration’s expansion of short-term health plans (H.R.1010), introduced by Democratic Reps. Lauren Underwood (IL), Kathy Castor (FL), Mark DeSaulnier (CA) and Gwen Moore (WI).

Find a link to witness testimonies, member statements and the hearing live feed here.

Senate Hearings  

Senate HELP Committee: Managing Pain During the Opioid Crisis
On Feb. 12, the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing on the opioid crisis, discussing research and approaches to pain management amid efforts to curb opioid abuse. Find a link to witness testimonies, member statements and the hearing live feed here.

Why is this important: Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) shared during the hearing a report released in 2018 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that says about 50 million Americans have chronic pain and nearly 20 million of those have high-impact chronic pain. This hearing is part of an effort to make dramatic reductions in the supply and use of opioids, while taking care of Americans who are in pain.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

House Hearings

House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health: Texas v. United States: The Republican Lawsuit and Its Impacts on Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions

On Feb. 6, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s subcommittee on health held a hearing on how a federal judge’s ruling in Texas could affect protections of pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Find a link to witness testimonies, member statements and the hearing live feed here.

Why this is important: The Texas v. United States ruling cited the ACA as unconstitutional—the case is in a high-profile appeals process. Members of the committee spent more time debating whether to hold a hearing on Medicare for All than discussing the implications of the ongoing federal case. Republicans pledged support to protect coverage of pre-existing conditions and to fix the ACA, using much of the hearing to highlight Democrats’ not bringing Republican single-payer proposals before the committees of jurisdiction.

House Committee on Education and Labor: “Examining Threats to Workers with Pre-existing Conditions”

On Feb. 6, the House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing to examine the threats to affordable health care for workers with pre-existing conditions and the protections offered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Find a link to witness testimonies, member statements and the hearing here.

Why this is important: While there was general consensus among the panel that the Texas ACA ruling would not hold in the Supreme Court, there remains a clear partisan divide on support for the law. Republican Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (NC) led the charge against the ACA, while the new Democratic majority sought to emphasize the law’s importance through witness testimonies of those needing pre-existing condition protections to survive.

House Appropriations Committee; Labor-Health Subcommittee: Impact of the Administration’s Policies Affecting the Affordable Care Act

On Feb. 6, the House Appropriations’ Labor-Health subcommittee held a hearing on the impact of the administration’s policies on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), specifically with regards to affordability, the increasing number of uninsured and the quality of the benefits available to people. Find a link to witness testimonies, member statements and the hearing here.

Why this is important: The subcommittee’s new chairwoman, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), said her intention with the hearing was to bring attention to the administration’s attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to find ways to reverse the administration’s initiatives.Republicans on the panel invited as their witness Ed Haislmaier, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a group that has pressed for the repeal of the ACA.

Senate Hearings

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee: How Primary Care Affects Health Care Costs and Outcomes

On Feb. 5, the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing on the importance of primary care in managing chronic conditions and preventing future health care costs. Find a link to witness testimonies, member statements and the hearing here.

Why this is important: The hearing gave examples of various employer groups and primary care entrepreneurs that are bending the cost curve through the delivery of high-value care. Those testifying in front of the committee included primary care physicians and academics leading innovative primary care models such as Direct Primary Care (DPC) practices and an expert in employer health benefits.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

House Hearings

Oversight and Reform Committee: Examining the Actions of Drug Companies in Raising Prescription Drug Prices
On Jan. 29, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing to determine business practices of pharmaceutical manufacturers as well as possible explanations for and solutions to rising drug prices. Find a link to witness testimonies, member statements and the entire hearing here.

Why this is important: Committee members emphasized major concerns that are widespread in both the House and Senate—a lack of transparency surrounding pharmaceutical drugs manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and the negotiation process for these costs, the same concerns raised in the Senate Finance committee held on the same day. However, members disagreed on methods to intervene and the extent to which the federal government should play a role in this process.

Ways and Means Committee: Protecting Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions
On Jan. 29, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing to discuss pre-existing conditions and their impact on health care coverage. With the Texas federal court ruling that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) should be struck down, protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions is high on the docket of multiple committees. Find a link to witness testimonies and member statements here. Watch the hearing here.

Why this is important: Protections related to pre-existing conditions are the most popular part of the Affordable Care Act. Prior to the 2018 election, Republicans introduced legislation stating that it would provide individuals with protections from pre- existing conditions. However, these bills had significant shortcomings in comparison to the ACA. Republican committee members expressed support for guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and called on Congress to lower health care costs. Democrats on the panel pushed back on that, criticizing Republicans for a previous lack of support for pre-existing conditions protections in the ACA. One witness testified concerning the benefits of Association Health Plans, which the Administration supports and many Republicans see as part of the answer to the coverage problem. 

Budget CommitteeCBO’s Budget and Economic Outlook: FY 2019-2029
On Jan. 29, the House Budget Committee held a hearing on the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) updated budget and economic outlook. Watch the hearing here.

Why this is important: Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) highlighted that the CBO projects a deficit this year that is $118 billion higher than last year’s. Average deficits over the next decade are projected to rise. The national debt is expected to reach 93 percent of GDP by 2029, before rising to an unprecedented 150 percent of GDP in 2049. CBO Director Keith Hall testified before the committee.

Senate Hearings

Finance Committee: Drug Pricing in America: A Prescription for Change, Part I
On Jan. 29, the Senate Finance committee held the first in a series of hearings for a bipartisan reform effort and increased transparency in the face of rising drug prices. Find a link to witness testimonies, member statements and the entire hearing here.

Why this is important: Witnesses suggested reforms to the Medicare Part D program, the 340B program and rebate programs as a few methods to lower prices. Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) discussed his bipartisan bill with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2019 (S.64). This legislation would permit the importation of prescription drugs from approved pharmacies in Canada. There was frustration on both sides of the aisle because drug manufacturers refused to testify. 

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee: Access to Care: Health Centers and Providers in Underserved Communities
On Jan. 29, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing to learn more about community health centers, the National Health Service Corps and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education programs, which all currently receive mandatory funding from the federal government that is set to expire at the end of this fiscal year. Find a link to witness testimonies, member statements and the entire hearing here.

Why this is important: With the federal funding to the highlighted programs expiring at the end of the fiscal year, the HELP committee’s hearing gave a platform to better  understand the importance of these programs. Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced S. 192, the Community and Public Health Programs Extension Act, to the floor last week.

Budget Committee: CBO’s Budget and Economic Outlook: FY 2019-2029
On Jan. 29, the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) updated budget and economic outlook. Watch the hearing here.

Why this is important: The CBO outlook projects a deficit this year that is $118 billion higher than last year’s. Average deficits over the next decade are projected to rise. The national debt is expected to reach 93 percent of GDP by 2029, before rising to an unprecedented 150 percent of GDP in 2049. CBO Director Keith Hall testified before the committee.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

This Week: Congress begins hearings on drug issues; Ways and Means focuses on preexisting conditions.

House

Ways and Means Chairman Schedules Hearing Next Week on Preexisting Conditions
The House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) announced a hearing on protecting individuals with preexisting conditions to be held on Jan. 29. The hearing is the first for the Ways and Means Committee since the Democrats gained the majority in the House. This hearing also begins their work on how to stabilize the marketplace. Find details for the hearing here.

Bipartisan Introduction of Cadillac Tax Repeal Bill in 116th Congress
On Jan. 24, a bipartisan effort out of the House reintroduced legislation to fully repeal the 40 percent excise tax on high-cost health plans, known as the “Cadillac tax.” The Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act is led by Reps. Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Mike Kelly (R-PA), with Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) also signing on as original sponsors. In the last Congress, more than 300 representatives and 33 senators from both parties cosponsored a similar Cadillac tax repeal bill. Read and monitor H.R. 748 here.

Senate

Senate Finance and House Oversight Committees to Hold Drug-Pricing Hearing on Same Day
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will hold a drug-pricing hearing on Jan. 29, the same day the House Oversight Committee will also hold a hearing on the same topic. Grassley reintroduced bills with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) early this month to ban pay-for-delay patent settlements between brands and generics and to permit Canadian drug imports. Find details for the Senate Finance Committee hearing here. Find details for the House Oversight Committee hearing here.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

This Week: The government shutdown continues; Congress finishes organizing and finalizing committee members and begins to focus on the issues. Concern has been raised that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Center is trying to bypass Congress in health policy.

House

Cummings Launches Drug-Pricing Investigation Prior to Hearings
On Jan. 14, House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) launched an investigation into brand drug manufacturers’ pricing practices weeks before he holds the first in a series of hearings on rising drug prices, Jan. 29. Cummings asked 12 brand drug manufacturers for information on pricing practices and research and development investments. The investigation focuses on the most expensive drugs for beneficiaries, the costliest drugs to Part D and drugs that have had the biggest price increases over the past five years. Many of those drugs treat diabetes, cancer and arthritis.

Energy and Commerce Democrats Focus on Market Stabilization Measures
On Jan. 16, the House Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) announced the subcommittee is likely to hold oversight hearings on the Trump administration’s changes to the current health system. Rep. Anna Eschoo (D-CA), chair of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, announced that Medicare for All hearings would be held only if time remains after focusing on the Affordable Care Act issues and drug pricing.

Senate

Senate Passed Medicaid Extender Legislation
On Jan. 17, the Senate passed by voice vote a bill that would extend two Medicaid provisions:

  • A nearly three-month extension of spousal impoverishment rules to let married couples protect certain assets while seeking Medicaid coverage for home- and community-based services.
  • Funding for a three-month extension of the Money Follows the Person demonstration that helps state Medicaid programs transition older adults and people with chronic illnesses back into their communities.

The House passed the same legislation last week, so the legislation now goes to the President to be signed into law.

Senate Rejects Government-Wide Ban on Abortion Funding
On Jan. 18, the Senate rejected a bill that would permanently ban the use of federal funding for abortions in programs such as Medicaid. The procedural vote, needed to begin debate on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, failed 48-47, with 60 votes needed to begin debate.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

House

New Leadership Updates
On Jan. 9, eight Democratic members were added to the House Energy and Commerce Committee:
Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragan (CA), Robin Kelly (IL), Marc Veasey (TX), Tom O’Halleran (AZ), Darren Soto (FL), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Ann McLane Kuster (NH) and Don McEachin (VA).

House Budget Chair Asks CBO to Study Single-Payer Policy Considerations
On Jan. 8, House Budget committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) sent a letter to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) requesting a study on the design and policy implications of a single-payer health care system. Yarmouth said that CBO’s input would benefit the upcoming House hearings on Medicare-for-All, held by the Budget committee. The report is not expected to provide an estimate on any particular single-payer proposal. Read the letter here.

Over-the-Counter Drug Reform and Pandemic Prep Bill Clear House
On Jan. 9, the House again passed a plan to overhaul how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and reauthorize the Department of Health and Human Services’s (HHS) pandemic preparedness unit, sending the bill to the Senate for the third time since last summer. The bill, H.R. 269, would be the first major change to federal regulation of the OTC drug industry in four decades, and passed 401 to 17. The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Susan Brooks (R-IN), expands the FDA’s authority and creates a five-year, $134 million OTC user fee program to fund a staffing increase. Track and read H.R. 269 here.

House Republicans Reintroduce Bill to Protect Preexisting Condition Coverage
On Jan. 10, Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), with cosponsors Reps. John Kato (R-NY), Mike Turner (R-OH), Anthony Gonzales (R-OH) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), reintroduced a bill to preserve preexisting conditions protections following the federal district court ruling in Texas to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Joyce reintroduced his own bill from the 115th Congress, the Continuing Coverage for Preexisting Conditions Act of 2019, to ensure ACA provisions that bar discrimination due to preexisting conditions remain in effect without a penalty if the individual mandate is found unconstitutional.

Senate

Democrats Send Letter Demanding Briefing on Short-Term Plan Rule from the Trump Administration
On Jan. 8, Senate and House Democratic health leadership sent a second letter to the Trump administration, demanding a response to their initial questions over the short-term plan rule released earlier this year. The letter requested a briefing with staff responsible for the regulation. The letter reiterated that the administration’s policy, allowing short-term plans to be renewed for up to three years, is illegal. The letter was signed by Energy & Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Ways & Means Chair Richard Neal (D-MA), Education & Labor Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA), Senate Finance ranking Democrat Ron Wyden (OR) and Senate HELP ranking Democrat Patty Murray (WA). Read the letter here.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Repeal Health Insurance Tax
On Jan. 10, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), John Barrasso (R-WY) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) reintroduced legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax on health insurers, citing it increases premiums. The Jobs and Premium Protection Act (S. 80) eliminates the health insurance tax (HIT) set to go into effect in 2020, which payers argue should be passed along to consumers.

Sanders, Cummings and Khanna Unveil Drug Pricing Package
On Jan. 10, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Ro Khanna (D-CA), along with more than two dozen members of the House and Senate, introduced a legislative package to reduce prescription drug prices. The drug pricing package includes three bills: the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, pegging the price of prescription drugs in the U.S. to the median price in Canada, the U.K., France, Germany and Japan; the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act, directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D; and the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, allowing patients, pharmacists and wholesalers to import safe, affordable medicine from Canada and other major countries.

Read more about healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

This Week: Happy New Year! The 116th Congress begins and healthcare issues are part of the “buzz” of day one. Part of the government is still closed.

Government Shutdown Update: The shutdown does not impact CMS. However, the FDA is one of the agencies affected. The House of Representatives voted on Jan. 3 to fund the remaining portions of the government impacted by the shutdown, but that legislation is not expected to be considered by the Senate, despite being the same legislation the Senate passed in the waning days of the last Congress that the president rejected at the last minute. As of Jan. 7, the partial government shutdown will be at 17 days.

House

New Leadership

House Ways and Means Committee

  • Chairman: Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA)
  • Ranking Member: Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX)

House Energy & Commerce

  • Chairman: Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ)
  • Ranking Member: Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR)

House Budget

  • Chairman: Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY)
  • Ranking Member: Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR)

House Speaker Pelosi Supports Medicare-For-All Hearings

According to press reports, Speaker Pelosi is supportive of a hearing on Medicare-for-All proposals. The Medicare-for-All hearing is expected to be in the House Rules and Budget Committees and will be scheduled sometime in the next few weeks.

House Energy and Commerce Chair Pallone Announces Hearing to be Held on ACA and Texas Ruling

On Jan. 3, Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced a hearing examining the impacts of the U.S. district judge’s decision in Texas to strike down the Affordable Care Act. While no exact date has been set, the hearing will be held sometime later this month.

Senate

New Leadership

The Senate also returned on Jan. 3, with swearing in of new members on Jan. 4. Committee memberships will be finalized Jan. 9.

Senate Finance

  • Chairman: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
  • Ranking Member: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (Republican Committee Assignments)

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN)
  • Sen. Mike Enzi (WY)
  • Sen. Richard Burr (NC)
  • Sen. Johnny Isakson (GA)
  • Sen. Rand Paul (KY)
  • Sen. Susan Collins (ME)
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy (LA)
  • Sen. Pat Roberts (KS)
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK)
  • Sen. Tim Scott (SC)
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (UT)
  • Sen. Mike Braun (IN)

Senate Finance (Republican Committee Assignments)

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA)
  • Sen. Mike Crapo (ID)
  • Sen. Pat Roberts (KS)
  • Sen. Mike Enzi (WY)
  • Sen. John Cornyn (TX)
  • Sen. John Thune (SD)
  • Sen. Richard Burr (NC)
  • Sen. Johnny Isakson (GA)
  • Sen. Rob Portman (OH)
  • Sen. Pat Toomey (PA)
  • Sen. Tim Scott (SC)
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy (LA)
  • Sen. James Lankford (OK)
  • Sen. Steve Daines (MT)
  • Sen. Todd Young (IN)

Senate Democrats Joining Health-Related Committees

  • Sen. Jacky Rosen (NV) – Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP)
  • Sen. Maggie Hassan (NH) – Senate Finance
  • Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) – Senate Finance

*Note: Senate assignments are subject to ratification by the full Senate on Jan. 9.

Read more about healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

On Dec. 14, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor declared the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional. The case, Texas v. Azaar, was brought earlier this year, arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of the law as consitutional relied on Congress’ power to tax, and the designation of the penalty for the individual mandate as a tax. However, Congress has since removed the penalty for the individual mandate, allowing the plaintiffs to argue that the invididual mandate is no longer constitutional.

The case presented five challenges to the law. The Trump administration, in an unusual decision, did not defend the law. That action gave rise to another case filed by the Maryland attorney general claiming the administration was not properly enforcing the law and asking for a declaratory judgement that the law was constitutional. A hearing on that case was held Dec. 19.

When Judge O’Connor released his declaratory judgment, he was responding to only one of the claims in the case. While most observers expected him to rule the individual mandate and the consumer protections unconstitutional, few expected the entire law to be found unconstitutional. While much attention has focused on the ACA’s insurance component and Medicaid expansion, the law also included a number of Medicare changes, such as the creation of Accountable Care Organizations, as well as the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act, which provides the framework under which the Food and Drug Administration approves biosimilars and interchangeable biologics. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, upon which the administration is relying to develop alternative payment models, would also fall.

Read the full analysis on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

This Week: To shut down or not to shut down the issue as Congress tries to wrap up and leave; opioids back in the news; Alexander says he will not run for reelection in 2020.

House

House Adds Border Security and Disaster Aid to Senate Continuing Resolution
After the Senate passed a continuing resolution to fund the government until Feb.8, the President announced he would not sign it. The House then voted 217-185 to send the continuing resolution back to the Senate after adding $5.7 billion for border security and $7.8 billion for disaster relief.

At this writing, it was unclear the Senate could pass the House version. In the event of a shut down, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is funded. However, the Food and Drug Administration is not because it was not included in the previously passed funding. The agency might have to furlough approximately 40 percent of its staff.

Senate

Continuing Resolution Passes Senate, but Trump wants Changes
On Dec. 20, the Senate passed a Continuing Resolution, based upon an agreement with the House, Senate and White House.  After passage, the President announced he would not sign the package without funding for the wall.  The CR funding would run through Feb 8. The Senate passed resolution left the debate over the wall and other issues to the new Congress.  Included in the CR:

Continued funding

  • Continues appropriations through Feb. 8, 2019, for FY19 appropriations measures that have not yet been enacted (Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services, Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, State-Foreign Operations, Transportation-HUD).

Temporary extensions included in previous CRs of expiring authorities

  • The National Flood Insurance Program, extended for duration of the CR.
  • The Violence Against Women Act, extended for duration of the CR.
  • The Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, extended for duration of the CR.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, extended for duration of the CR.
  • Immigration extensions (EB-5, E-Verify, Conrad 30 program for international medical school graduates, special immigrant religious workers program and H2B returning worker authority for DHS), extended for duration of the CR.

New temporary extensions of expiring authorities

  • The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act, extended for duration of the CR.
  • Two expiring provisions of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, extended for duration of the CR.
  • Medicaid Money-Follows-the-Person and Spousal Impoverishment, extended through March 31 (longer extension necessary for program integrity), with offsets.
  • Statutory PAYGO scorecard balance debited to following year.

HELP Chairman Will Not Seek Reelection in 2020
On Dec. 17, Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, announced he will not run for reelection in 2020. He will remain chair in the next Congress. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) is next in line to chair the HELP committee, although he would have to give up being chair of the Senate Budget Committee. Sen. Alexander was part of a working group of GOP senators that failed to pass an Affordable Care Act replacement bill last year. Days before announcing his retirement, Sen. Alexander said that the committee would be open to considering a revival of the bill.

Sen. Wyden Asks FCC to Adopt Three-Digit Number for Mental Health and Suicide Support
On Dec. 17, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt a new three-digit phone number for those needing mental health and suicide support. Sen. Wyden noted in his letter to the FCC that suicide rates are rising nationally with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reporting more than 40,000 Americans died by suicide last year.

Read the letter here.

Sen. Booker Will Introduce Legislation on Medicaid Drug Transparency
On Dec. 17, Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) announced he will introduce the “Medicaid Drug Decisions Transparency Act” this week, requiring more transparency surrounding states’ Medicaid drug decisions. The bill requires pharmaceutical companies to disclose their payments to pharmacists and others who serve on state Medicaid drug boards. The bill also increases penalties for companies that fail to comply with reporting requirements and requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide states with summaries of drug company payments made to members of their Medicaid drug committees.

Read more about healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

This Week: The Affordable Care Act was found unconstitutional, but nothing will change as it winds through the courts. As the 115th Congress comes to a close, last-minute bills are introduced, some healthcare legislation passed and CBO releases its biannual book of ideas to reduce the deficit. It is unclear if the government will shut down or not; the continuing resolution runs out on the 21st.

House

House Passes Medicaid Package, Includes Senate Drug Misclassification Bill

The House of Representatives voted 400-11 to pass a health care bill (H.R. 7127) that includes the ACE Kids Act, legislation that would allow state Medicaid programs to use a health home model to coordinate care for children with medically complex conditions. Among other provisions, the bill would maintain spousal impoverishment protections, require states to come into compliance with asset verification requirements and provide for civil monetary penalties against manufacturers that knowingly misclassify drugs under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program.

Ways and Means Chair Pushes Device, Insurance, “Cadillac” Tax Delays by End of the Year

On Dec. 10, outgoing House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) introduced a revised tax and IRS oversight package that also includes the delay and repeal of certain Affordable Care Act taxes. The legislation would include a five-year delay of the medical device tax, a two-year delay of the health insurance tax and a one-year delay of the Cadillac tax—delays that were Republican priorities in the Save American Workers Act, which never reached a floor vote. The chairman believes the bill could pass with bipartisan support before Christmas.

Text of the revised tax package can be located here.

Ways & Means Republicans Introduce Medicare Red Tape Reduction Package

On Dec. 11, the House Ways and Means Republicans introduced a package of seven bills as part of their Medicare Red Tape Relief Project. The legislation includes proposals to permanently eliminating physician supervision requirements for critical access hospitals, repealing the 96-hour rule for critical access hospitals and requiring prior authorization notification and a study on simplification.

Find more information on this legislation here.

Senate

Senate Democrats Introduce Bill for HHS to Block Drug Price Rises

On Dec. 13, Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (CT), Kamala Harris (CA), Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Jeff Merkley (OR) introduced legislation allowing the government to prohibit prescription drug price hikes if they are unjustifiably expensive. The Curbing Unreasonable Rises and Excessively (CURE) High Drug Prices Act allows the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to prohibit drug price increases that it decides are excessive.

Read more about healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.