What’s Ahead: This Week

 Hearings and Markups – 

  • Tuesday, October 22
    • House Ways & Means Committee, “Markup of Health Legislation: H.R. 3398, the Pathways to Health Careers Act of 2019; H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Act Now Act of 2019; H.R. 4650, the Medicare Dental Act of 2019; H.R. 4665, the Medicare Vision Act of 2019; and H.R. 4618, the Medicare Hearing Act of 2019.”
    • House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, “Legislative Hearing on H.R. 4360; H.R. 592; H.R. 1030; H.R. 4165; H.R. 4183; H.R. 628; H.R. 1424; H.R. 1911, and a draft bill to extend increased dependency and indemnity compensation paid to surviving spouses of veterans who die from ALS, and a draft bill to permit appellants to appear before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals via picture and voice transmission from locations outside the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).”
  • Wednesday, October 23
    • House Education & Labor Committee, Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions and Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, “The Future of Work: Preserving Worker Protections in the Modern Economy.”
    • House Energy & Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, “Sabotage: The Trump Administration’s Attack on Health Care.”
  • Thursday, October 24
    • Senate Finance Committee, “Treating Substance Misuse in America: Scams, Shortfalls and Solutions.”

Notable Policy Events – 

  • Monday, October 21
    • Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, “Managing Chronic Conditions in a World of Increasing Health Care Costs.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/31lILwX
  • Tuesday, October 22
    • Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), “U.S. Drug Pricing Policy: Tools to Increase Access and Affordability.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/31qnpyx
  • Tuesday, October 22 – Wednesday, October 23
    • VHA Innovation Ecosystem, “2019 VHA Innovation Experience.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/35Oucp7
  • Wednesday, October 23
    • America’s Physician Groups, “Deep Dive on Stark and Anti-Kickback Rules.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2MLHF8r
  • Thursday, October 24
    • National Summit on Acute Pain Management, “How Clinicians are Addressing the Opioid Crisis.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/31mQ87g
    • Health Care Payment Learning & Action Network (LAN) Summit. Additional information: http://bit.ly/2BoPaNm
  • Friday, October 25
    • Alliance for Health Policy, “Modernizing Medicare Part D.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/33zNQmG
    • Healthcare Leadership Council, “Focusing Innovation on the Individual Patient.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/32v3saS
    • Heritage Foundation, “Honoring America’s Veterans Through Improved Care and Services.” Additional information: https://herit.ag/2BlqsNM

Legislative Activity –

Committee Actions and Votes –

  • On October 15, the House unanimously passed the Homeless Veteran Families Act (H.R. 95), which would ensure that children of homeless veterans are included in the calculation of the amounts of certain per diem grants. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. Press release: http://bit.ly/31jLyqc Bill text: http://bit.ly/35HH2oM
  • Also on October 15, the House passed by a voice vote the VA Website Accessibility Act of 2019 (H.R. 1199), which would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study regarding the accessibility of website of the Department of Veterans Affairs to individuals with disabilities. The bill now moves to Senate for consideration. Press release: http://bit.ly/33FKgHU Bill text: http://bit.ly/2IRabnV
  • Also on October 16, the House passed by a voice vote the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Technical Corrections Act of 2019 (H.R. 3889), which would make technical corrections to the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. Bill text: http://bit.ly/2nX9mm7
  • On October 17, the House Education & Labor Committee approved by a 27-21 vote and the House Energy & Commerce Committee approved by a 30-22 vote, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 (H.R. 3). The bill will also be considered by the House Ways & Means Committee on October 22. Additionally, the House Energy & Commerce Committee approved by a voice vote the Medicare Vision Act of 2019 (H.R. 4665), the Help Seniors Afford Health Care Act (H.R. 4671), the Medicare Hearing Act of 2019 (H.R. 4618) and the Medicare Dental Act of 2019 (H.R. 4650). The bills now move to the full House for consideration. Press release: http://bit.ly/2qrzJSb

Introduced Legislation –

  • On October 15, Reps. Kim (D-NJ), Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Evans (D-PA) introduced the Helping Seniors Afford Health Care Act (H.R. 4671), which would increase access to affordable health care for senior citizens. Press release: http://bit.ly/2VMEGR7
  • Also on October 15, Rep. Schneider (D-IL) introduced the Protecting Medicare Beneficiaries with Pre-Existing Conditions Act (H.R. 4676), which would provide for the guaranteed issue of Medigap policies to all Medigap-eligible Medicare beneficiaries and Medicare Advantage enrollees. Press release: http://bit.ly/2VXSnN5
  • On October 16, Reps. Hudson (R-NC) and Ruppersberger (D-MD) introduced the Department of Veterans Affairs Electronic Health Record Advisory Committee Act (H.R. 4693), which would ensure veterans have access to seamless electronic health records across the VA and Department of Defense (DOD) health systems. Press release: http://bit.ly/2MrmCJk
  • Also on October 16, Reps. Foster (D-IL) Meeks (D-NY), Raskin (D-MD), and Beatty (D-OH) introduced the Medical Records Access Fairness Act (H.R. 4698), which would amend the HITECH Act to allow an individual to obtain a copy of such individual’s protected health information at no cost. Press release: http://bit.ly/2BnzMRb Bill text: http://bit.ly/2VYoRXM
  • Also on October 16, Reps. McAdams (D-UT), Gonzalez (R-OH), Johnson (D-TX) and Balderson (R-OH) introduced the Advancing Research to Prevent Suicide Act (H.R. 4704), which directs the Director of the National Science Foundation to support multidisciplinary research on the science of suicide, and to advance the knowledge and understanding of issues that may be associated with several aspects of suicide including intrinsic and extrinsic factors related to areas such as wellbeing, resilience, and vulnerability. Press release: http://bit.ly/2qsXMjJ
  • Also on October 17, Sen. Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Restoring Health Benefits for Justice-Involved Individuals Act of 2019 (S. 2626), which would remove limitations on inmate eligibility for Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and veteran’s health benefits. Press release: http://bit.ly/2J12J9W Bill text: http://bit.ly/35RQpCs
  • Also on October 17, Sens. Merkley (D-OR), Markey (D-MA), Brown (D-OH), and Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Equity in Pretrial Medicaid Coverage Act (S. 2628), which would remove a limitation on an individual’s eligibility for medical assistance under the State Medicaid plan while the individual is in custody pending disposition of charged. Press release: http://bit.ly/2N0I5b5 Bill text: http://bit.ly/35PbmOv
  • Also on October 17. Sens. Rounds (R-SD) and Jones (D-AL) introduced the United State Public Health Services Modernization Act of 2019 (S. 2629), which would establish a Ready Reserve Corps within the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to make certain vital health care jobs are adequately staffed when disasters strike the U.S. Press release: http://bit.ly/2VUKYy5

Individual Market and ACA Implementation –

  • On October 15, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Pallone (D-NJ) sent a letter to HHS Secretary Azar and CMS Administrator Verma requesting a response to a previous information request regarding the Administration’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Press release: http://bit.ly/2Bgk0HA Letter: http://bit.ly/32wk2HH

Medicare –

  • On October 15, CMS Administrator Verma released a blog on Medicare Open Enrollment, highlighting the Administration’s steps to increase plan choices, improve benefits, lower costs, and make it easier to shop and compare Medicare plans. Blog post: https://go.cms.gov/2BjUn96
  • On October 16, Sen. Cortez Masto (D-NM) sent a letter to CMS Administrator Verma expressing concern with the readiness of the Medicare Plan Finder website for the open enrollment window that began on October 15. Letter: http://bit.ly/2VY3ntN
  • On October 16, Senate Special Committee on Aging Chair Collins (R-ME) and Ranking Member Casey (D-PA) released a report on falls prevention, detailing key findings and recommendations of a year-long examination of the health and economic impact of falls and strategies to prevent falls and reduce falls-related injuries. Press release: http://bit.ly/32nWuEv Report: http://bit.ly/2IW56e1
  • On October 17, CMS announced enhanced oversight of nursing home inspections in response to growing concerns about consistency and timeliness of inspections. Press release: https://go.cms.gov/2J1ylvO
  • On October 18, Sens. Stabenow (D-MI), Collins (R-ME), Markey (D-MA), Capito (R-WV), and Menendez (D-NJ) led a bipartisan group of 29 senators in a letter to CMS Administrator Verma urging her to conduct an education and outreach campaign to ensure that clinicians, Medicare beneficiaries with cognitive impairment, and their families are aware of the assessment and care planning services currently available to them. Press release with text of letter: http://bit.ly/2W3UOxJ

Medicaid –

  • On October 17, the state of Arizona sent a letter to Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services Deputy Administrator and Acting Director Lynch, notifying of Arizona’s decision to postpone implementation of its Medicaid work requirement.  Letter: http://bit.ly/2BvjnKp

New Payment and Delivery System Models –

  • On October 15, CMS posted a case study on using data for quality improvement for the Accountable Health Communities Model. Case study: http://bit.ly/32mL1oW

Payment and Medical Device Prices and Regulation –

  • On October 15, House Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Walden (R-OR) and Subcommittee on Health Ranking Member Burgess (R-TX) sent a letter to Chair Pallone (D-NJ) and Subcommittee on Health Chair Eshoo (D-CA) calling for a second hearing on the Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 (H.R. 3). Press release: http://bit.ly/35BFAEJ Letter: http://bit.ly/2MoTWRf
  • On October 16, HHS Secretary Azar and FDA Acting Commissioner Sharpless announced that the FDA had achieved 1,171 generic drug approvals in fiscal year 2019, and that it will continue to enhance patient access to high-quality, low-cost generic drugs. HHS Statement: http://bit.ly/35EDl3p FDA Statement: http://bit.ly/2VM26pP
  • On October 17, Senate Finance Committee Chair Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Wyden (D-OR) released an op-ed titled, “Congress Can Act Now to Lower Drug Prices,” stating that bipartisan legislation would redesign Medicare Part D to lower costs for beneficiaries and taxpayers. Op-ed: https://bloom.bg/2MP78xE

Veterans and Military Health –

  • On October 15, the VA announced the award of $14.8 million in grants for adaptive sports programs benefitting Veterans with disabilities and disabled members of the Armed Forces. Press release: http://bit.ly/2IVG0fm
  • Also on October 15, Sen. Brown (D-OH) joined Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Tester (D-MT) and Sens. Bennett (D-CO), Murray (D-WA), Sanders (I-VT) and Blumenthal (D-CT) in a letter to Secretary Wilkie, urging the VA to increase its efforts to connect veterans with critical mental health care. Press release with letter: http://bit.ly/2VUXTzW
  • On October 16, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on actions needed to ensure provider qualifications and competence, finding that some VA medical centers inadvertently overlooked information that would disqualify a doctor from being hired. Summary with link to report: http://bit.ly/2OUBPnY
  • Also on October 16, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Tester (D-MT), and Sens. Bennet (D-CO) and Moran (R-KS) sent a letter to Under Secretary of Defense Stewart urging them to address the alarming increase in the suicide rate among members of the National Guard. Press release: http://bit.ly/2poSmWk Letter: http://bit.ly/2IVS9AV
  • On October 17, VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report finding that Veterans’ sensitive personal information on VA shared network drives was mishandled. Summary with link to report: http://bit.ly/2oSA0go
  • Also on October 17, VA celebrated its latest telehealth innovation with the grand opening of the first VA Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations (ATLAS) site which will benefit up to 300 Veterans living in the community. Press release: http://bit.ly/2MqhTHM
  • Also on October 17, VA and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States partnered to increase access to suicide prevention resources for its members. Press release: http://bit.ly/31xmRa9

Public Health –

  • On October 15, House Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Walden (R-OR), Subcommittee on Health Ranking Member Burgess (R-TX), Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations Ranking Member Guthrie (R-TX) and Rep. Bucshon (R-IN) sent a letter to House Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Pallone (D-NJ) and Subcommittee on Health Chair Eshoo (D-CA) requesting a follow-up hearing on maternal mortality. Letter: http://bit.ly/2P5ZIsN
  • On October 17, CDC announced the updated number of confirmed and probable injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarettes to 1,479 and 35 deaths. Press release: http://bit.ly/32tdLwf

Misc. –

  • On October 17, Senate Finance Committee Chair Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to HHS Secretary Azar seeking information on Graduate Medical Education programs, on how the money is spent and what oversight processes are currently in place to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse of the programs. Press release with letter: http://bit.ly/31tr6TY
  • Also on October 17, Senate Finance Committee Chair Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to the University of Virginia Health System on tax-exempt obligations, following a report outlining its potential failure to live up to its legal obligations as a tax-exempt organization. Press release with letter: http://bit.ly/33G30qz