What’s Ahead: This Week

Hearings/Markups –

  • Tuesday, March 20
    • House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, “Expanding Affordable Health Care Options: Examining the Department of Labor’s Proposed Rule on Association Health Plans.”
    • House Energy & Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight, “The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Role in Combating the Opioid Epidemic.”
    • Senate Finance Committee, “Hearing to Consider the Nominations of John J. Bartrum, of Indiana, to be an Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services and Lynn A. Johnson, of Colorado, to be Assistant Secretary for Family Support, Department of Health and Human Services.”
  • Wednesday, March 21
    • House Ways & Means Committee, Subcommittee on Health, “Hearing on Implementation of MACRA’s Physician Payment Policies.”
    • House Oversight Committee, Subcommittees on Government Operations and Intergovernmental Affairs, “Improper Payments in State-Administered Programs: Medicaid.”
    • Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, “Fiscal Year 2019 Budget for Veterans’ Programs and Fiscal Year 2020 Advance Appropriations Request.”
  • Wednesday, March 21 – Thursday, March 22
    • House Energy & Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health, “Combatting the Opioid Crisis: Prevention and Public Health Solutions.”

Notable Policy Events –

  • Monday, March 19
    • National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM), “The Opioid Crisis: Treating Addiction and Saving Lives.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2FPmjpb
    • Altarum Center for Value in Health Care, “The Value of Health: Measuring the Economic Impacts of Prevention, Treatment, and Social Determinants.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2FPpvB4
  • Tuesday, March 20
    • Friends of Cancer Research, “Safeguarding the Public Health: Enhancing Information About Prescription Drugs.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2FRKPpt
  • Wednesday, March 21
    • Politico, “Avoiding 911 – How to Improve Health Care in Nursing Homes and Bend the Cost Curve.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2GD4gAA
    • The Atlantic, “The State of Care: Patient Access & Affordability.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2pmCvoa

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

Legislative Activity –

  • On March 12, Sens. Smith (D-MN) and Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Improving Access to Mental Health Services Act (S. 2533), which would allow National Health Services Corps members to provide obligated service as behavioral and mental health professionals at schools, other community-based settings, or patient homes. Press release: http://bit.ly/2FX9Nno
  • Also on March 12, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Grassley (R-IA), and Sens. Durbin (D-IL), Kennedy (R-LA), and Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Opioid Quote Reform Act of 2018 (S. 2535), which would strengthen Drug Enforcement Administration discretion in setting opioid quotes. Press release: http://bit.ly/2FQRWie
  • On March 13, House Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Pallone (D-NJ) introduced the Stop Counterfeit Drugs by Regulating and Enhancing Enforcement Now (SCREEN) Act (H.R. 5228), which would strengthen the authorities of the Food and Drug Administration o address counterfeit drugs, illegal and synthetic opioids, and opioid-like substances. Press release: http://bit.ly/2FPagbv Section-by-section: http://bit.ly/2FVDvcG Bill text: http://bit.ly/2GtAHkA
  • Also on March 13, Reps. Johnson (R-OH) and Tonko (D-NY) introduced the Training, Education and Community Help (TEACH) to Combat Addiction Act (H.R. 5261), which would amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for regional centers of excellence in substance use disorder education. Press release: http://bit.ly/2GrjmZK
  • Also on March 13, Rep. Budd (R-NC) introduced the H.R. 5254, which would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct a study on the feasibility of expanding eligibility for enrollment in Medicare Advantage to individuals enrolled under the Medicaid program or enrolled under a group health plan. Press release: http://bit.ly/2tMDumg
  • On March 14, Sens. Smith (D-MN), Udall (D-NM), Tester (D-MT), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Warren (D-MA) and Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced the Native Behavioral Health Access Improvement Act (S. 2545), which would authorize a special behavioral health program for Indians. Press release: http://bit.ly/2tNHnaG
  • Also on March 14, Sens. Heller (R-NV), Rubio (R-FL), and Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act (S. 2548), which would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to furnish mental health care to certain former members of the Armed Forces who are not otherwise eligible to receive such care. Rep. Coffman previously introduced companion legislation in the House, which was unanimously passed (H.R. 918). Press release: http://bit.ly/2tQUvvR
  • Also on March 14, Sens. Collins (R-ME), McCaskill (D-MO), Stabenow (D-MI), Barasso (R-WY) and Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act (S. 2553), which would amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to prohibit health plans and pharmacy benefit managers from restricting pharmacies from informing individuals regarding the prices for certain drugs and biologicals. Press release: http://bit.ly/2tSfDSf
  • Also on March 14, Sens. Sens. Collins (R-ME), McCaskill (D-MO), Stabenow (D-MI), Barasso (R-WY), Cassidy (R-LA), and Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Know the Lowest Price Act (S. 2554), which would ensure that health insurance issuers and group health plans do not prohibit pharmacy providers from providing certain information to enrollees. Press release: http://bit.ly/2tSfDSf
  • Also on March 14, Reps. Stivers (R-OH) and Engel (D-NY) introduced the Reinforcing Evidence-Based Standards Under Law in Treating Substance Abuse (RESULTS) Act (H.R. 5272), which would ensure that programs and activities that are funded by a grant, cooperative agreement, loan, or loan guarantee from the Department of Health and Human Services, and whose purpose is to prevent or treat a mental health or substance use disorder, are evidence-based. Press release: http://bit.ly/2tSBY29 Bill text: http://bit.ly/2FKVq2f
  • On March 15, Reps. Roe (R-TN) and Suozzi (D-NY) introduced the Modernizing Drug Enforcement Act (H.R. 5298), which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to deem drugs or other substances that act as opioid mu receptor agonists to be in schedule I, subject to exceptions for substances intended for legitimate medical or research use. Press release: http://bit.ly/2pmaVYl Bill text: http://bit.ly/2pkAbhQ
  • Also on March 15, Reps. Guthrie (R-KY) and Dingell (D-NY) introduced the Ensuring Medicaid Provides Opportunities for Widespread Equity, Resources (EMPOWER) and Care Act (H.R. 5306), which would reauthorize the Money Follows the Person Demonstration. Press release: http://bit.ly/2plS2Vy
  • Also on March 15, Co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force Kuster (D-NH) and Reps. Blackburn (R-TN), Ryan (D-OH) and MacArthur (R-NJ) introduced the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) 2.0 (H.R. 5311), which would reauthorize and expand the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016. Sens. Portman (R-OH) and Whitehouse (D-RI) previously introduced a companion bill in the Senate (S. 2456). Press release: http://bit.ly/2tUWWxm
  • Also on March 15, Rep. Cartwright (D-PA) introduced the Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act (H.R. 5314), which would provide for unlimited eligibility for health care for mental illnesses for veterans of combat service during certain periods of hostilities and war. Press release: http://bit.ly/2pmbIbL
  • Also on March 15, Rep. Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduced the Lifelong Improvements in Food and Exercise (LIFE) Act (H.R. 5322), which would provide for a national program to conduct and support activities toward the goal of significantly reducing the number of cases of overweight and obesity among individuals in the U.S. Press release: http://bit.ly/2piJNcP

Medicare –

  • On March 15, Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) also released its annual March Report to Congress. Summary with link to chapters: http://bit.ly/2tTQy9L
  • Also on March 15, House Ways & Means Committee Health Subcommittee Chair Roskum (R-IL) and House Energy & Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee Chair Burgess (R-TX) led a group of 42 members of groups to HHS Secretary Azar and CMS Administrator Verma regarding the annual Advance Notice and Draft Call Letter proposing new rates and policies for the Medicare Advantage program for 2019. Press release: http://bit.ly/2tS3pcz Letter: http://bit.ly/2tV8YqA
  • On March 16, CMS finalized a National Coverage Determination that covers diagnostic laboratory tests using Next Generation Sequencing for patients with advanced cancer. Press release: http://go.cms.gov/2pkzLbg

Medicaid –

  • On March 15 Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) released its annual March Report to Congress. Summary with link to chapters: http://bit.ly/2tNEuqm
  • On March 16, CMS released an interim evaluation report for the Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program (IAP), which provides an analysis of participants’ experiences with the IAP targeted support. Report: http://bit.ly/2tWvWh7
  • Also on March 16, Senate Finance Committee Chair Hatch (R-UT), Ranking Member Wyden (D-OR), House Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Walden (R-OR) and Ranking Member Pallone (D-NJ) sent a letter to CMS Administrator Verma requesting information about the agency’s implementation of the Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System (T-MSIS). Press release: http://bit.ly/2piHNkP Letter: http://bit.ly/2plQZF6

New Payment and Delivery System Models –

  • On March 13, CMS released the Vendor Pledge Contract List and Novel Therapies Drug List for the Oncology Care Model. Link to download lists: http://bit.ly/2tMuWfl

Mental Health and Substance Abuse –

  • On March 13, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced it is accepting applications for up to $16.8 million in grants for the Health Transitions: Improving Life Trajectories for Youth and Young Adults with Serious Mental Disorders program. Applications are due by May 14. Press release: http://bit.ly/2tO2fOX
  • On March 15, Bipartisan Heroin Task Force led a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chair Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Ranking Member Lowey (D-NY), urging them to provide expanded funding for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act in the upcoming FY18 appropriations bill. Press release with text of letter: http://bit.ly/2FLPk1H

Health IT –

  • On March 13, HHS released a study on interoperable health information exchange (IEHI), finding that there is limited data on the public benefits of IEHI and proposing a framework to collect future information on its impacts. Study: http://bit.ly/2FP3fHH
  • Also on March 13, HHS announced the Phase 2 winners of the “Oh the Places Data Goes: Health Data Provenance” challenge. Press release: http://bit.ly/2tPWQqV

Veterans’ Health

  • On March 14, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the award of almost $500,000 to provide Identity and Access Management services to improve and maximize cost savings to VA’s current IT infrastructure. Press release: http://bit.ly/2tQBGsz

Misc. –

  • On March 12, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Walden (R-OR), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Harper (R-MS), and Subcommittee on Health Chair Burgess (R-TX) sent letters to CMS and four hospital accreditation entities requesting information about hospital accreditation processes following a Wall Street Journal article that raised concerns about patient safety problems at hospitals. Press release: http://bit.ly/2FSiUpz Letter to CMS: http://bit.ly/2FPI9J1
  • On March 13, HHS released a study finding that nearly two-thirds of children with a usual source of care provider and who visited them during 2015 had a usual source of care that was an independent practice, compared to only about half of non-elderly adults. Report: http://bit.ly/2FQ4bvk
  • Also on March 13, the President’s Cancer Panel released a report on promoting value, affordability and innovation in cancer drug treatment. Summary with link to executive summary and report: http://bit.ly/2GtDcmY
  • Also on March 13, HHS released a report on retention in the Indian Health Service, finding that about 81 percent of IHS program participants remain in the same site one year after completion of their service obligation. Report: http://bit.ly/2tNd6ZO
  • On March 14, House Committee on Energy & Commerce Ranking Member Pallone (D-NJ) sent a letter to Chair Walden (R-OR) requesting a hearing on Cigna’s recently proposed plan to acquire Express Scripts and CVS’s proposed merger with Aetna. Press release: http://bit.ly/2tMBhY0 Letter: http://bit.ly/2tVCxIm
  • On March 15, FDA released an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) that will take steps to reduce smoking rates by lowering the level of nicotine allowed in combustible cigarettes to minimally or non-addictive levels. Comments are due by June 16. Blog post: http://bit.ly/2tSc7Y8 ANPRM: http://bit.ly/2tQpVlZ
  • Also on March 15, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released early estimates based on data from the National Health Interview Survey for January-September 2017, finding, among other things, that the percent of uninsured during that period was 9.0 percent, which remains the same as the 2016 estimate. Report: http://bit.ly/2tTPoec