Jan 15, 2019
Washington Healthcare Update
This Week: As of today, the government has been partially shut down for 25 days, surpassing the longest federal government shutdown in history during Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1995.
New Leadership Updates
On Jan. 9, eight Democratic members were added to the House Energy and Commerce Committee:
Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragan (CA), Robin Kelly (IL), Marc Veasey (TX), Tom O’Halleran (AZ), Darren Soto (FL), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Ann McLane Kuster (NH) and Don McEachin (VA).
House Budget Chair Asks CBO to Study Single-Payer Policy Considerations
On Jan. 8, House Budget committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) sent a letter to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) requesting a study on the design and policy implications of a single-payer health care system. Yarmouth said that CBO’s input would benefit the upcoming House hearings on Medicare-for-All, held by the Budget committee. The report is not expected to provide an estimate on any particular single-payer proposal.
Read the letter here.
Over-the-Counter Drug Reform and Pandemic Prep Bill Clear House
On Jan. 9, the House again passed a plan to overhaul how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and reauthorize the Department of Health and Human Services’s (HHS) pandemic preparedness unit, sending the bill to the Senate for the third time since last summer. The bill, H.R. 269, would be the first major change to federal regulation of the OTC drug industry in four decades, and passed 401 to 17. The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Susan Brooks (R-IN), expands the FDA’s authority and creates a five-year, $134 million OTC user fee program to fund a staffing increase.
Track and read H.R. 269 here.
House Republicans Reintroduce Bill to Protect Preexisting Condition Coverage
On Jan. 10, Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), with cosponsors Reps. John Kato (R-NY), Mike Turner (R-OH), Anthony Gonzales (R-OH) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), reintroduced a bill to preserve preexisting conditions protections following the federal district court ruling in Texas to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Joyce reintroduced his own bill from the 115th Congress, the Continuing Coverage for Preexisting Conditions Act of 2019, to ensure ACA provisions that bar discrimination due to preexisting conditions remain in effect without a penalty if the individual mandate is found unconstitutional.
Democrats Send Letter Demanding Briefing on Short-Term Plan Rule from the Trump Administration
On Jan. 8, Senate and House Democratic health leadership sent a second letter to the Trump administration, demanding a response to their initial questions over the short-term plan rule released earlier this year. The letter requested a briefing with staff responsible for the regulation. The letter reiterated that the administration’s policy, allowing short-term plans to be renewed for up to three years, is illegal.
The letter was signed by Energy & Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Ways & Means Chair Richard Neal (D-MA), Education & Labor Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA), Senate Finance ranking Democrat Ron Wyden (OR) and Senate HELP ranking Democrat Patty Murray (WA).
Read the letter here.
Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Repeal Health Insurance Tax
On Jan. 10, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), John Barrasso (R-WY) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) reintroduced legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax on health insurers, citing it increases premiums. The Jobs and Premium Protection Act (S. 80) eliminates the health insurance tax (HIT) set to go into effect in 2020, which payers argue should be passed along to consumers.
Sanders, Cummings and Khanna Unveil Drug Pricing Package
On Jan. 10, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Ro Khanna (D-CA), along with more than two dozen members of the House and Senate, introduced a legislative package to reduce prescription drug prices. The drug pricing package includes three bills: the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, pegging the price of prescription drugs in the U.S. to the median price in Canada, the U.K., France, Germany and Japan; the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act, directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D; and the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, allowing patients, pharmacists and wholesalers to import safe, affordable medicine from Canada and other major countries.
DOJ, House Democrats and Democratic AGs Appeal Texas ACA Ruling; DOJ Asks Pause on Proceedings
On Jan. 4, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion in Texas district court to appeal the 5th Circuit’s ruling to invalidate the entirety of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Judge Reed O’Connor based his ruling on the conclusion that an individual mandate without penalty is no longer constitutional. The ruling made in Texas v. Azar is officially stayed through the appeals process. On Jan. 3, seventeen Democratic attorneys general formally appealed the decision, led by California AG Xavier Becerra.
Read the DOJ motion here.
Read the Democratic AG motion here.
[California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, and the District of Columbia]
On Jan. 9, the DOJ formally asked the federal appeals court to pause proceedings in the case due to the ongoing government shutdown. If the DOJ’s request was turned down, all parties in the case would be required to respond by Jan. 17 to the House Democrat’s motion to intervene, originally filed on Jan. 7. The DOJ opposes the House request.
On Jan. 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit granted the DOJ’s request to pause proceedings.
Read the House Democrats’ motion here.
SCOTUS Questions Clarity of Warning Language in Drug Labeling Case
On Jan. 7, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the drug labeling case Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Doris Albrecht, et al. At question in the case is whether a state law failure-to-warn claim is preempted when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rejects a drug manufacturer’s proposed risk warning, supplemented with scientific data. The court debated whether the FDA clearly understood Merck’s proposed wording and the seriousness of the risks, or whether the wording actually served to minimize the risks.
Find a transcript of the arguments here.
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