What’s Ahead: This Week

Hearings –

  • Tuesday, December 12
    • Senate HELP Committee, “The Cost of Prescription Drugs: An Examination of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Report “Making Medicines Affordable: A National Imperative.”
    • House Energy & Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, “Examining Concerns of Patient Brokering and Addiction Treatment Fraud.”
    • Senate Judiciary Committee, “Oversight of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act.”
  • Wednesday, December 13
    • Senate HELP Committee, “Implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act: Responding to Mental Health Needs.”
    • House Energy & Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health, “Examining the Drug Supply Chain.”
    • House-Senate Conference Committee on H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

 Notable Policy Events –

  • Tuesday, December 12
  • Wednesday, December 13
    • HHS, “HHS Innovation Day.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2AYgGCo
    • Bipartisan Policy Center, “Building the Case: Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and Health.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2AZKcbj
    • Bipartisan Policy Center, “Family Caregiving through the Generations.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2AYgZgU
  • Thursday, December 14
    • Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC), “December Public Meeting.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2Bk489g
    • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee Press Conference on Report to Congress.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2BiSriX


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

 Appropriations –

  • On December 7, the House and Senate both passed a short-term continuing resolution (CR) (H.J. Res. 123), which will fund the federal government at FY 2017 enacted levels through December 22. The CR includes short-term funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The President signed the bill into law the next day. Press release: http://bit.ly/2ATEl6Q Bill text: http://bit.ly/2ATVkpp

 Congressional Schedule –

  • On December 7, the House and Senate released their calendars for 2017. Consolidated calendar: http://bit.ly/2BjjScu

 Legislative Activity –

  • On December 4, Senate Armed Services Committee Chair McCain (R-AZ) and Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Chair Moran (R-KS) introduced the Veterans Community Care and Access Act of 2017 (S. 2184), which would improve veterans’ healthcare benefits. Press release: http://bit.ly/2Bkk2QK Summary: http://bit.ly/2BiAoJL Section-by-section: http://bit.ly/2BigBdz Bill text: http://bit.ly/2Bin9J2
  • On December 5, the House unanimously the Enhancing Veteran Care Act (S. 1266), which would authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to investigate medical centers of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Having previously passed the Senate, the bill now moves to the President for signature. Press release: http://bit.ly/2AU5R3X
  • Also on December 5, Rep. Murphy (D-FL) and 51 cosponsors introduced H.R. 4541, which would extend funding for certain public health programs. Press release: http://bit.ly/2BjoTSC Summary: http://bit.ly/2BjoY8S
  • Also on December 5, Reps. Roskam (R-IL), Blumenauer (D-OR), and 8 bipartisan cosponsors introduced the Medicare Common Access Card Act (H.R. 4554), which would establish a smart card pilot program to combat fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicare program. Press release: http://bit.ly/2ATRuwv
  • Also on December 5, Rep. Shea-Porter introduced H.R. 4555, which would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to furnish dental care in the same manner as any other medical services. Press release: http://bit.ly/2Bkl2V0
  • On December 6, Reps. Davis (D-CA), Wilson (R-SC), Gabbard (D-HI), Mast (R-FL) and Rosen (D-NV) introduced the Fair Access to Insured for Retired (FAIR) Heroes Act (H.R. 4571), which would expand eligibility for the TRICARE program to include certain veterans entitled to benefits under the Medicare program due to conditions or injuries incurred during service in the Armed Forces and to waive the Medicare part B late enrollment penalty for such veterans. Press release: http://bit.ly/2ARVSMF
  • Also on December 6, Reps. Dingell (D-MI) and Webster (R-FL) introduced the Worst-Case Scenario Hospital Preparedness Act (H.R. 4572), which would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to enter into an arrangement with the National Academy of Medicine to evaluate the preparedness of hospitals, long-term care facilities, dialysis centers, and other medical facilities for public health emergencies. Press release: http://bit.ly/2AUyb6k
  • On December 7, Reps. Olson (R-TX), Green (D-TX), and four bipartisan cosponsors introduced the Preserving Rehabilitation Innovation Centers Act (H.R. 4582), which would preserve rehabilitation innovation centers under the Medicare program. Sens. Cassidy (R-LA) and Durbin (D-IL) introduced companion legislation in the Senate (S. 2204). Press release: http://bit.ly/2Bu2QZh
  • Also on December 7, Sens. Cornyn (R-TX), Cassidy (R-LA) and Toomey (R-PA) introduced the Prioritizing the Most Vulnerable Over Lottery Winners Act of 2017 (S. 2209), which would require states to count monetary winnings from lotteries and other lump-sum income of $80,000 or more as if they were obtained over multiple months for purposes of determining income eligibility for medical assistance. Press release: http://bit.ly/2BsA2k2

 ACA Market Stabilization & Implementation –

  • On December 6, CMS released data showing that 823,180 consumers enrolled in coverage using Healthcare.gov in the fifth week of Open Enrollment, including 271,207 new consumers. Over 3.6 million consumers have enrolled in coverage since November 1. Press release: http://go.cms.gov/2AYgIdu
  • Also on December 6, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Murray (D-WA) and 36 Democratic Senators sent a letter to HHS Acting Secretary Hargan urging him to rescind the Department’s Interim Final Rule “enabling employers and universities to interfere with their employees’ and students’ access to preventive health care by allowing them to choose not to cover birth control for religious or moral reasons.” The same day, House Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Pallone (D-NJ), House Ways & Means Committee Ranking Member Neal (D-MA) and House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Scott (D-VA) sent a similar letter. Press releases: http://bit.ly/2AYLq6r and http://bit.ly/2AYxyZZ Letters: http://bit.ly/2AWNFXR and http://bit.ly/2AYgjYU
  • On December 7, Sens. Kaine (D-VA), Warner (D-VA) and Reps. Scott (D-VA), McEachin (D-VA), Beyer (D-VA), Comstock (R-VA) and Connolly (D-VA) sent a letter to HHS Acting Secretary Hargan asking him to extend the open enrollment period for consumers buying health insurance through the ACA in light of premium increases in Charlottesville and across Virginia. Press release with text of letter: http://bit.ly/2Bofedk
  • Also on December 7, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report assessing the accuracy of projections that CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) made in 2010 and 2013 of federal spending for people newly eligible for Medicaid by the ACA and of subsidies for health insurance purchased through the ACA marketplaces. Summary with link to report: http://bit.ly/2ATF2gs

Medicare –

  • On December 8, CMS released a notice announcing a one-year extension of the Medicare Prior Authorization Model for repetitive scheduled non-emergent ambulance transport. Notice: http://bit.ly/2B3yXhu

Medicaid and CHIP

  • On December 5, CMS released an informational bulletin providing an update on the 2018 Supplemental Security Income and Spousal Impoverishment Standards. Bulletin: http://bit.ly/2AYpOqY
  • On December 6, CMS released a Report to Congress on the Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration, finding that as of the end of 2015, over 63,000 Medicaid beneficiaries had been transitioned from long-term institutional care to community residences and home and community-based long-term services and supports. Report: http://bit.ly/2BjuAQq More information: http://bit.ly/2BjuLLA
  • On December 7, Sens. Kaine (D-VA) and Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to Senator Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) urging him to immediately pass bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Press release: http://bit.ly/2Bjcxto Letter: http://bit.ly/2BktinZ
  • On December 8, Reps. DeGette (D-CO) Carson (D-IN) and O’Rourke (D-TX) led a group of nearly 100 Representatives in a letter to Congressional leadership urging bipartisan cooperation in finding a way to responsible extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Press release: http://bit.ly/2AT9OGc Letter: http://bit.ly/2AW466C
  • Also on December 8, HHS Office of Inspector General released a report finding that personal care services in Medicaid were a substantial and growing percentage of Medicaid Fraud Control Unit cases and outcomes. Summary with link to report: http://bit.ly/2Bieuq9

 Mental Health and Substance Abuse –

  • On December 4, Sen. Warren (D-MA) sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Kelly requesting clarification on Kellyanne Conway’s role in leading the White House’s efforts to fight the opioid epidemic. Press release: http://bit.ly/2Bk7oBw Letter: http://bit.ly/2BmkGgE

 Veterans Health –

  • On December 4, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report finding that the initial implementation of the Medical Surgical Prime Vendor-Next Generation program was flawed, lacked an overarching strategy, stable leadership, and a sufficient workforce. Summary with link to report: http://bit.ly/2AYzB07
  • On December 7, GAO released a report finding that improvements to VA contracting processes for buying medical and surgical supplies could yield cost savings and efficiency. Summary with link to report: http://bit.ly/2BkTfnH
  • Also on December 7, GAO released a report finding that the VA obligated over $1.1 billion for contracts with 138 contractors during fiscal years 2011 through 2015 for the integrated electronic health record program and VistA Evolution. Summary with link to report: http://bit.ly/2BjinLo
  • Also on December 7, the VA announced that it will use two innovative treatments to ease the challenges associated with living with traumatic brain injur7 and post-traumatic stress disorder. Press release: http://bit.ly/2B5GDQ7

Health IT

  • On December 5, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released final guidance modifying the FDA’s current policy on categorization of investigational device exemption devices, which assists CMS in determining whether or not an IDE device should be covered by CMS. Notice: http://bit.ly/2AUw3vm Guidance: http://bit.ly/2AUvYry
  • On December 4, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a comprehensive technical framework to advise manufacturers creating medical products on 3D printers. Statement: http://bit.ly/2AYhxmA
  • On December 7, FDA released three new guidance documents, including two draft and one final guidance, which implement sections of the 21st Century Cures Act related to clinical decision support software, mobile applications, and clinical evaluation software. Comments are due by February 9. Blog post: http://bit.ly/2ATTdlr Guidance: http://bit.ly/2ASF6gu and http://bit.ly/2ARSYYh and http://bit.ly/2AVxY2Z
  • Also on December 7, FDA released draft guidance that allows for a novel approach to improve the efficiency of drug development in pediatric rare diseases using Gaucher disease as an example. Comments are due by February 9. Notice: http://bit.ly/2AVRQD6 Guidance: http://bit.ly/2ASTYvb
  • On December 8, HHS announced the winners of the HHS opioid code-a-thon. Press release: http://bit.ly/2Boc5Ky

Misc. –

  • On December 4, House Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Pallone (D-NJ) sent letters to CMS Administrator Verma and the President of the MITRE Corporation requesting briefings in response to a report that the “rewrites of certain regulations have been subcontracted to private sector consultants that may have conflicts of interest.” Press release: http://bit.ly/2AYMFCD Letter: http://bit.ly/2AYgrY0
  • On December 5, GAO released a report finding that CMS’ antifraud efforts in Medicare and Medicaid only partially align with the GAO’s 2015 report, A Framework for Managing Fraud Risks in Federal Programs.” Summary with link to report: http://bit.ly/2AZQsiY
  • On December 6, CMS Office of the Actuary released data on national health expenditures in 2016, finding that overall national health spending increased 4.3 percent in 2016, following 5.8 percent growth in 2015. Press release: http://go.cms.gov/2AYiuvy Data: http://go.cms.gov/2h8kOGM
  • On December 7, National Institutes for Health released a study finding that 6 million American adults have Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment. Press release: http://bit.ly/2AUJknF
  • On December 8, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released its seventh annual Report to Congress on High-Priority Evidence Gaps for Clinical Preventive Services. Press release: http://bit.ly/2BqZ7vu Summary with link to report: http://bit.ly/2Br7lE9