What’s Ahead: This Week

Hearings/Markups –

  • Monday, March 12
    • House Veterans Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Health, “VA Healthcare: Maximizing Resources in Puerto Rico.”
  • Wednesday, March 14
    • House Budget Committee, “CBO Oversight: Perspectives from Outside Experts.”
  • Thursday, March 15
    • House Veterans Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Health, “FY 2019 Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for the Veterans Health Administration.”
    • House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, “FY19 Budget Hearing – Department of Health and Human Services.”
    • Senate HELP Committee, “Perspectives on the 340B Drug Discount Program.”

Notable Policy Events –

  • Monday March 12
    • Bipartisan Policy Center, “Leading with Nutrition: Leveraging SNAP for Better Health.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2DjlEXI
  • Monday, March 12 – Tuesday, March 13
  • Tuesday, March 13
    • Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP), “Capitol Hill Briefing on Medicare Advantage in 2018.”
    • American Enterprise Institute, “Interpreting the Numbers Behind the Opioid Crisis: Remarks from Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2DjJv9y
  • Wednesday, March 14
    • Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, “Preventing and Treating America’s Number One Killer: The Need for Evidence-Based Strategies in Cardiovascular Disease.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2HpiS5G
  • Friday, March 16
    • National Coalition on Health Care, “Alternative Payment Models: Achieving the Next Level of Performance.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2I6M0Qn

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

Legislative Activity –

  • On March 5, House Veterans Affairs Committee approved by a vote of 14-9 the VA Care in the Community Act (H.R. 4242), which would consolidate VA’s existing community care programs into one and modernize VA’s claims processing system. The bill now moves to the full House for consideration. Summary: http://bit.ly/2IeVucj Bill text: http://bit.ly/2FqGDhn
  • Also on March 5, House Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Pallone (D-NJ), House Ways & Means Committee Ranking Member Neal (D-MA), and House Committee on Education & the Workforce Ranking Member Scott (D-VA) introduced the Undo Sabotage and Expand Affordability of Health Insurance Act of 2018 (H.R. 5155), which would improve the affordability of, undo sabotage with respect to, and increase access to health insurance coverage. Press release: http://bit.ly/2DePg8q Bill text: http://bit.ly/2p7jZzz
  • Also on March 5, Reps. DeSaulnier (D-CA) and Poe (R-TX) introduced the Cancer Care Planning and Communications Act (H.R. 5160), which would enable doctors to bill Medicare for the time they spend developing comprehensive cancer care plans. Press release: http://bit.ly/2DdJVOZ
  • Also on March 5, Sen. Manchin (D-WV) introduced the DEA Enforcement and Authority Act of 2018 (S. 2493), which would clarify the congressional intent behind the requirements relating to immediate suspension orders and corrective action plans under the Controlled Substances Act that were added by the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016. Press release: http://bit.ly/2DgHzP7
  • Also on March 5, Sen. Baldwin (D-WI) and 18 cosponsors introduced the Fair Care Act (S. 2494), which would provide standards for short-term limited duration health insurance policies. Press release: http://bit.ly/2tzPM1c
  • Also on March 5, Sen. Enzi (R-WY) introduced the Small Business Health Account Act of 2018 (S. 2496), which would create a new kind of tax-exempt health savings account called a Small Business Health Account. Press release: http://bit.ly/2DevABS Bill text: http://bit.ly/2FsAQ6B
  • On March 7, Rep. Ellison (D-MN) was granted unanimous consent to assume first sponsorship of the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act (H.R. 676), which was first introduced by former Rep. Conyers (D-MI) in January 2017. Press release: http://bit.ly/2HlBqns Bill text: http://bit.ly/2l5nBha
  • Also on March 7, Sen. Barrasso (R-WY) introduced the Improving Choices in Health Care Coverage Act (S. 2507), which would expand access to short term limited-duration health plans. Press release: http://bit.ly/2FyaVxL Bill text: http://bit.ly/2IfHuik
  • Also on March 7, Senate HELP Committee Chair Alexander (R-TN) and 12 Republican cosponsors introduced the School Safety and Mental Health Services Improvement Act (S. 2513) which would use federal funding to establish mental health services in schools. Press release: http://bit.ly/2FBBYs9 Bill text: http://bit.ly/2oXFbZw
  • Also on March 7, Sens. Booker (D-NJ), Capito (R-WV), Bennet (D-CO), and Gardner (R-CO) introduced the Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) in the Emergency Department Act (S. 2516), which would direct the Secretary of HHS to conduct a demonstration program to test alternatives to opioids in emergency departments. Reps. Pascrell (D-NJ), McKinley (R-WV), DeGette (D-CO), and Tipton (R-CO) introduced companion legislation in the House (H.R. 5197). Press release: http://bit.ly/2oW2cM7
  • Also on March 7, Sens. Cotton (R-AR), McCaskill (D-MO), Toomey (R-PA), Ernst (R-IA) and Perdue (R-GA) introduced the Preserving Access to Cost Effective Drugs (PACED) Act (S. XXX), which would Press release: http://bit.ly/2DjZKDA
  • On March 8, Reps. McKinley (R-WV) and Doyle (D-PA) introduced the Preventing Overdoses While in Emergency Rooms Act (H.R. 5176), which would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide coordinated care to patients who have experienced a non-fatal overdose after emergency room discharge. Press release: http://bit.ly/2DkFwtj
  • Also on March 8, Sens. Capito (R-WV) and Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Colorectal Cancer Detection Act of 2018 (S. 2523), which would make colorectal cancer screenings eligible for reimbursement under Medicare. Press release: http://bit.ly/2p0laR9
  • Also on March 8, Sens. Baldwin (D-WI), Gillibrand (D-NY), Warren (D-MA) and Sanders (I-VT) introduced the Advancing Youth Enrollment Act (S. 2529), which would reduce the applicable percentage under the premium assistance tax credit for households with young adults. Press release: http://bit.ly/2DgKwPH

ACA Market Stabilization and Implementation –

Medicare –

  • On March 7, CMS released guidance for Medicare Advantage plans related to the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program for calendar year 2018. Guidance: http://bit.ly/2p1GxST
  • On March 8, HHS Office of Inspector General released a report finding that some Home Health Agency supplied patient lists were missing Medicare beneficiaries, allowing them to be excluded from surveyor reviews. Summary with link to report: http://bit.ly/2p1wvRS

Medicaid –

  • On March 5, CMS Administrator Verma approved Arkansas’s section 1115 demonstration waiver request to incorporate work requirements as a condition of eligibility for its Medicaid program. Approval letter: http://bit.ly/2FFkcnT
  • On March 6, CMS released updated Federal Poverty Level standards for 2018, which reflect a 2.1 percent price increase between calendar years 2016 and 2017. Standards: http://bit.ly/2IiRDev
  • Also on March 6, a group of 23 Democratic Congressmen led by House Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Pallone (D-NJ), Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Green (D-TX), and Rep. Kennedy (D-MA) penned a letter to HHS Secretary Azar and CMS Administrator Verma regarding the President’s proposed budget for Medicaid and proposed 1115 waivers. Press release: http://bit.ly/2p3IZZ2 Letter: http://bit.ly/2FmGYBD

New Payment and Delivery System Models –

  • On March 5, HHS Secretary Azar delivered a speech to the Federation on American Hospitals on the transformation to value-based payments. Speech text: http://bit.ly/2p0HtXU
  • On March 6, CMS released a list of MS-DRG exclusions from clinical episodes for the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Advanced model. List: http://bit.ly/2FBl4Xj
  • On March 7, CMS posted a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document for the Comprehensive Car for Joint Replacement model. FAQ: http://bit.ly/2p0MKPc

Mental Health and Substance Abuse –

  • On March 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data showing that emergency department visits as a result of opioid overdoses increased 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017. Press release: http://bit.ly/2Fkrdv2
  • On March 7, HHS released a study and research brief on the relationship between parental substance misuse and child welfare caseloads, which began rising in 2012 after more than a decade of decline. Summaries with links to reports: http://bit.ly/2p1wux4 and http://bit.ly/2p16C4C

Health IT –

  • On March 6, CMS Administrator Verma announced the launch of a new initiative to give patients greater access to their healthcare records, called MyHealthEData. As part of the initiatives, the Administration also announced Blue Button 2.0, which will allow Medicare beneficiaries to access and share their personal health data in a universal digital format. Press release: http://go.cms.gov/2I7oSB5 Fact sheet: http://go.cms.gov/2FdKM7Y

Drug and Medical Device Regulation –

  • On March 7, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Gottlieb delivered a speech to the AHIP National Health Policy Conference focusing on the generic and biosimilar drug market. Speech text: http://bit.ly/2FuFxjN

Veterans’ Health –

  • On March 5, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the launch of a beta version of its Lighthouse Lab software platform. Press release: http://bit.ly/2FvVrXP
  • On March 6, VA announced a pilot telehealth program for rural veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Press release: http://bit.ly/2D5eAOe
  • On March 9, VA Secretary Shulkin encouraged health care providers to sign a pledge to work with VA to accelerate the mapping of health data to industry standards through an open application programming interface. Press release: http://bit.ly/2FtFgu2

Misc. –

  • On March 5, FDA Commissioner Gottlieb issued a statement on the FDA’s commitment to modernizing food and nutrition programs. Press release: http://bit.ly/2tBPabt
  • Also on March 5, House Energy & Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee Chair Burgess (R-TX) and Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee Chair Harper (R-MS) issued a letter to the District of Columbia Department of Health regarding maternal and infant mortality rates. Press release: http://bit.ly/2DjpcsM Letter: http://bit.ly/2tBlZW1
  • On March 8, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on federal obligations to and expenditures by organizations that provide preventive, reproductive, and diagnostic health care services. Summary: http://bit.ly/2p3vIiC Report: http://bit.ly/2HoQv7K