What’s Ahead: This Week

Hearings & Markups –

  • Wednesday, September 5
    • House Energy & Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health, “Opportunities to Improve Health Care.”
    • House Ways & Means Committee, “Markup of the Empowering Seniors’ Enrollment Decision Act of 2018 (H.R. 6662); Fighting Fraud to Protect Care for Seniors Act of 2018 (H.R. 6690); Comprehensive Care for Seniors Act of 2018 (H.R. 6561); and Local Coverage Determination Clarification Act of 2017 (H.R. 3635).”
    • House Veterans Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, “Reusable Medical Equipment: Continuing to Examine VHA’s Sterile Processing Problems.”
    • Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, “Pending Nominations, Assistant Secretary for Accountability and Whistleblower Protections and Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology.”
  • Thursday, September 6
    • House Energy & Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, “Examining Federal Efforts to Ensure Quality of Care and Resident Safety in Nursing Homes.”
    • House Veterans Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, “A Review of VA’s Specially Adaptive Housing Grant Programs (SAH).”
    • House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Global Health, “Tackling Fentanyl: Holding China Accountable.”

Notable Policy Events

  • Wednesday, September 5
    • HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), “Health IT Advisory Committee.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2LYzYJH
  • Thursday, September 6 – Friday, September 7
    • Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), “September Public Meeting.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2LUXrLN


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

 Appointments –

  • On August 28, the Senate voted to confirm Lynn A. Johnson to be Assistant Secretary of Family Support at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by a vote of 67-28. Ms. Johnson will oversee the Administration for Children and Families as well as the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

 Legislative Activity –

  • On August 28, House Ways & Means Committee Health Subcommittee Chair Roskam (R-IL) and Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced the Fighting Fraud to Protect Care for Seniors Act of 2018 (H.R. 6690), which would establish a smart card pilot program to combat fraud, waste, and abuse and to protect beneficiary identity under the Medicare program. Bill text: https://bit.ly/2PjNvgS
  • On August 29, Sen. Baldwin (D-WI) led a group of 30 Senators in introducing a resolution of disapproval (S.J. Res. 63), which would overturn the Trump Administration’s rule expanding the use of short-term, limited duration plans, which are not required to provide health care coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions. Press release: https://bit.ly/2Nb7O2M Resolution text: https://bit.ly/2PpqV6A

ACA Implementation –

  • On August 27, House Energy & Commerce Ranking Member Pallone (D-NJ), Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Murray (D-WA), Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Wyden (D-OR), and Senate Aging Committee Ranking Member Casey (D-PA) penned a letter to HHS Secretary Azar and CMS Administrator Verma requesting information about the Administration’s plans to implement the recommendations of a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report finding deficiencies in the Administration’s handling of the 2018 ACA Open Enrollment period. Press release: https://bit.ly/2MJ8m0j Letter: https://bit.ly/2oqbi3d GAO report: https://bit.ly/2wsDw14
  • On August 28, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Wyden (D-OR), Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Murray (D-WA), and Sens. Nelson (D-FL) and Baldwin (D-WI) sent a letter to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) asking them to begin reporting the harmful consequences of short-term, limited duration insurance plans. Press release: https://bit.ly/2PTP46k Letter: https://bit.ly/2PSNgdG

 Medicaid –

  • On August 28, South Dakota submitted a Section 1115 waiver application to establish work requirements as a condition of Medicaid eligibility for individuals ages 19 to 59 in Minnehaha and Pennington counties. Comments are due by September 26, 2018. Waiver application: https://bit.ly/2wmqbIq

 Medicare and Medicare Payment and Delivery System Reforms –

  • On August 27, CMS released an evaluation report for the first performance year of the Next Generation ACO Model finding that the model generated $62 million in net savings to the Medicare program for the 2016 performance year. Press release: https://go.cms.gov/2NtJupy Report overview: https://bit.ly/2LACrJX Report: https://bit.ly/2NDRZi2 Technical appendices: https://bit.ly/2wB8a8b
  • On August 30, CMS released savings results from the 2017 Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), finding that program saved $1.1 billion in 2017, netting the federal government $314 million in savings. Data: https://bit.ly/2PRbBAu
  • Also on August 30, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Walden (R-OR), Health Subcommittee Chair Burgess (R-TX), and Oversight Committee Chair Harper (R-MS) sent a letter to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) requesting they conduct additional research looking at questions pertaining to hospital consolidation and the financial impact it has on Medicare. Press release: https://bit.ly/2LKYRbm Letter: https://bit.ly/2LKQKLU
  • On August 31, CMS released the first annual report on the ACO Investment Model (AIM). The model reduced total Medicare spending by $105.4 million in 2016. Findings at a glance: https://bit.ly/2PTU6iY Report: https://bit.ly/2PnnxJf
  • Also on August 31, CMS released coach and beneficiary fact sheets for the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program (MDPP). Coach fact sheet: https://bit.ly/2oszWQA Beneficiary fact sheet: https://bit.ly/2wyVzm5
  • Also on August 31, CMS released the first annual report on the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Model. High cost areas saw a 3.9 percent spending reduction, and low cost areas saw a 2.3 percent reduction. Findings at a glance: https://bit.ly/2LJYu0Z Report: https://bit.ly/2MJnWsE

 Mental Health and Substance Use –

  • On August 27, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Grassley (R-IA) penned a letter to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Collins regarding an NIH study on the long term effects of daily alcohol consumption requesting that NIH disclose to Congress the total amount of taxpayer money spent on the study. Press release: https://bit.ly/2PTuoes Letter: https://bit.ly/2N1erob
  • On August 28, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is taking legal action against 21 websites marketing unapproved opioids as part of the agency’s effort to target illegal online sales of opioids. Press release: https://bit.ly/2pmyLF9
  • Also on August 28, NIH launched the Acute to Chronic Pain Signatures (A2CPS) program to investigate the biological characteristics underlying the transition from acute to chronic pain. The program is part of NIH’s broader HEAL Initiative. Press release: https://bit.ly/2LA8ERt
  • On August 29, FDA Commissioner Gottlieb released a statement outlining the agency’s ongoing work to forcefully address the opioid crisis. Press release: https://bit.ly/2PNqAvz
  • Also on August 29, Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program announced $90.9 million in grants to 731 local drug prevention coalitions. White House press release: https://bit.ly/2wuXg4G
  • On August 30, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarded $215.2 million over five years to support justice-involved individuals who have substance use or co-occurring mental and substance use disorders. Press release: https://bit.ly/2PjRNVw

Drug Prices and Regulation

  • On August 27, Senate HELP Committee Chair Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Murray (D-WA), along with House Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Walden (R-OR) and Ranking Member Pallone (D-NJ) penned a letter to HHS urging it to use its rulemaking authority to implement regulations to better administer the 340B Drug Pricing Program. Press release: https://bit.ly/2NAXbmL Letter: https://bit.ly/2wyvvHK
  • On August 29, CMS announced in a memo to Part D sponsors additional flexibility in Medicare Part D to allow for indication-based formulary design beginning in contract year 2020. Press release: https://go.cms.gov/2NvXE9L Fact sheet: https://go.cms.gov/2PluURG Memo: https://go.cms.gov/2NuQD9c
  • On August 30, House Energy & Commerce Chair Walden (R-OR), Health Subcommittee Chair Burgess (R-TX), and Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee Chair Harper (R-MS) sent a letter to seven pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) requesting information to better understand the role of PBMs in the drug supply chain. Press release: https://bit.ly/2N899He Letters: https://bit.ly/2NEt4eh
  • Also on August 30, FDA reopened the comment period on the draft guidance titled “Development of a Shared System Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS).” The comment period closes on September 13, 2018. Notice of availability: https://bit.ly/2Pn4nTI Draft guidance: https://bit.ly/2wvGkKG

 Military & Veterans’ Health –

  • On August 29, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the hiring of 172 vocational rehabilitation counselors to staff its Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program. Press release: https://bit.ly/2POSsPI
  • On August 30, VA announced its plans to provide approximately $200 million in fiscal year 2019 funding to support more than 13,000 transitional housing beds for its Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program. Press release: https://bit.ly/2wFXCVJ
  • Also on August 30, VA announced that its General Counsel, Jim Byrne, has been named Acting Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs effective August 28. Press release: https://bit.ly/2MDB5Du
  • Also on August 30, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Tester (D-MT) and Sen. Sullivan (R-AK) as well as House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Roe (R-TN) and Ranking Member Walz (D-MN) sent a letter to VA urging them to begin clinical trials to better understand the potential benefits or dangers of medical cannabis use. Press release: https://bit.ly/2wwcWnC Letter: https://bit.ly/2wsKROY
  • On August 31, VA announced the upcoming awards of nearly $326 million in grants to help at-risk veterans and their family members under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. Press release: https://bit.ly/2CctHdo

 Health IT –

  • On August 30, HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) celebrated the 22nd anniversary of the HIPAA law’s enactment, and highlighted the role the law plays in health information portability. Blog: https://bit.ly/2PO1VXH


  • On August 29, CDC released health insurance coverage estimates from January to March 2018, finding that approximately 9 percent of individuals (28.3 million) of all ages were uninsured at the time of interview – a number that is not significantly different from 2017, but 20.3 million fewer persons than in 2010. Report: https://bit.ly/2MA6YNo