What’s Ahead: This Week

Notable Policy Events –

  • Wednesday, February 21
    • Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), “Health IT Advisory Committee Meeting.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2ChYjoO
  • Friday, February 23
    • Politico, “Eighth Annual State Solutions Conference.” Additional information: http://politi.co/2EqbPJ2
    • Alliance for Health Policy, “The Brazda Breakfast: Reporting on the Future of Health Care – Dynamics in the Health Care Market.” Additional information: http://conta.cc/2ofdVVd

Weekly Wrap-Up: Notable Health Care Developments From Last Week

Appropriations –

Legislative Activity –

  • On February 12, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Bennet (D-CO) introduced the Accelerating Access to Kids Care Act (S. 2415), which would provide states with the ability to use a streamlined screening and enrollment process for out-of-state pediatric care providers that need to enroll in another state’s Medicaid program. Press release: http://bit.ly/2F2jOx0
  • On February 15, Reps. Walberg (R-MI), Dingell (D-MI), and Hudson (R-NC) introduced The Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act (H.R. 5041), which would equip hospice professionals with the legal authority to safely dispose of unused drugs after a hospice patient’s death. Press release: http://bit.ly/2F7hm8m
  • Also on February 15, Reps. Kuster (D-NH), Bilirakis (R-FL), Peters (D-CA) and Coffman (R-CO) introduced the VA Community Care Enhancement Act (H.R. 5047), which would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a demonstration program to provide expanded access to medical services through partnerships between Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers and Federally qualified health centers. Press release: http://bit.ly/2ETFpty
  • Also on February 15, Sens. Cantwell (D-WA) and Harris (D-CA) introduced the Comprehensive Addiction Reform, Education and Safety (CARES) Act (S. 2440), which would combat the opioid epidemic by reforming existing laws and providing for the public’s safety. Press release: http://bit.ly/2C8XL8X Bill text: http://bit.ly/2CaQtSp

ACA and Market Stabilization –

  • On February 12, Rep. Courtney (D-CT) led six other democratic representatives in a letter to Secretary of Labor Acosta requesting further information about the Department’s recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding Association Health Plans. Press release: http://bit.ly/2C8RGcN Letter: http://bit.ly/2C7TxyH

Medicaid –

  • On February 14, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Wyden (D-OR) and Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Murray (D-WA) led a group of thirty-seven Senators in a letter to HHS Secretary Azar urging the Department to reverse its decision to block Medicaid beneficiaries from using the family planning provider of their choice. Press release: http://bit.ly/2CnZq6c Letter: http://bit.ly/2o9k8lr
  • Also on February 14, House Minority Leader Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Whip Hoyer (D-MD) led 172 House Democrats in a letter to HHS Secretary Azar expressing their opposition to Medicaid work requirements. Letter: http://bit.ly/2o689oP

New Payment and Delivery System Models –

  • On February 16, CMS released the first annual report and associated appendices for Phase II of the Initiative to Reduce Avoidable Hospitalizations Among Nursing Facility Residents. Report: http://bit.ly/2HucJpD Appendices: http://bit.ly/2odNFKG
  • Also on February 16, CMS released a list of organizations with interim preliminary recognition for the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program expanded model. List: http://bit.ly/2ogmPBN

Mental Health and Substance Abuse –

  • On February 12, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member McCaskill (D-MO) released “Fueling an Epidemic: Exposing the Financial Ties Between Opioid Manufacturers and Third Party Advocacy Groups,” a report which details how opioid manufacturers have paid third party groups to engage in pro-opioid advocacy. Press release with link to report: http://bit.ly/2EKZ66P
  • On February 14, Sens. Markey (D-MA) and Paul (R-KY) penned a letter to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) regarding efforts to implement the expansion of medication-assisted therapies (MAT) for opioid addiction. Press release: http://bit.ly/2ELfaFG Letter: http://bit.ly/2GgLOw8
  • On February 15, House Energy & Commerce Committee leadership sent a series of letters to pharmaceutical manufacturers expanding on its ongoing investigation into alleged pill dumping in the state of West Virginia. Press release: http://bit.ly/2swCSRj Letter: http://bit.ly/2sCfL81
  • Also on February 15, SAMHSA released guidance on clinical best practices in using MAT to combat the opioid epidemic, in order to help broaden healthcare professional’s understanding of medications that can be used to treat opioid use disorder. Press release: http://bit.ly/2syTqId Guidance: http://bit.ly/2sDRPkE
  • On February 16, House Committee on Oversight & Investigations Ranking Member Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter to Chairman Gowdy (R-SC) urging that the Committee request a briefing from the White House on the status of the Administration’s efforts to implement the recommendations of the President’s Opioid Commission. Press release: http://bit.ly/2ofXMib Letter: http://bit.ly/2ojBE6L

Drug and Medical Device Regulation –

  • On February 12, Sens. McCain (R-AZ) and Baldwin (D-WI) sent a letter to President Trump urging him to make good on his promise to lower the rising costs of prescription drugs by supporting the FAIR Drug Pricing Act (S. 1131). Press release: http://bit.ly/2EI3lQP Letter: http://bit.ly/2o4hG0q
  • On February 13, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Gottlieb released a statement on the Administration’s request for new FDA funding to promote innovation and broaden patient access through competition. Statement: http://bit.ly/2nUpTEo
  • Also on February 13, the FDA permitted the marketing of clinical decision support software for alerting providers of a potential stroke in patients. Press release: http://bit.ly/2GdG7ir
  • On February 16, HHS released a report on the costs and benefits of selected policy tools to promote drug development and describes how seven specific policy tools could be used to encourage R&D investment for needed drugs in the U.S. Report: http://bit.ly/2ojAmIX

Veterans’ Health –

  • On February 14, the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General released a report on an investigation into VA Secretary Shulkin’s July 2017 travel to Europe. Summary with link to report: http://bit.ly/2BxDyst VA Statement: Statement: http://bit.ly/2Ewm12k Press release from House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees: http://bit.ly/2oguTSV

Misc. –

  • On February 12, House Energy & Commerce Committee released a memo in conjunction with a hearing on healthcare consolidation, which includes data on physician, hospital, and insurer consolidation trends. Memo: http://bit.ly/2szltYb
  • On February 13, House Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Pallone (D-NJ) penned a letter to CMS Administrator Verma raising ethics concerns regarding a CMS contract awarded to Myriddian, LLC. Press release: http://bit.ly/2sz0Wmn Letter: http://bit.ly/2Bys08w
  • Also on February 14, CMS released the agency’s National Health Expenditure Projections, finding that national health spending is expected to average 5.5 percent annually from 2017 through 2026. Press release: http://go.cms.gov/2HkbBEP Report: http://go.cms.gov/1J3iyc9
  • On February 15, House Energy & Commerce Ranking Member Pallone (D-NJ) sent a letter to HHS Secretary Azar requesting an ethical review of HHS leadership in the wake of several resignations due to ethics violations over the past year. Press release: http://bit.ly/2swD96N  Letter: http://bit.ly/2sAqgsf
  • Also on February 15, Senate Finance Committee Chair Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service, requesting information regarding their oversight activities of nonprofit hospitals. Press release with text of letter: http://bit.ly/2sCeJc9