POLICY BRIEFINGS


House CHIP Bill Includes Aid for Puerto Rico


The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reauthorization bill advanced by the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week also included $1 billion in Medicaid funds for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. While Committee Democrats argued that the provision was inadequate, Republicans noted that the measure was written in consultation with Jenniffer González-Colón (R), Puerto Rico’s nonvoting representative. Congressional Democrats are demanding a disaster aid package, which has yet to be proposed by the Trump Administration. 


FDA Commissioner Questioned on Puerto Rico Strategy


Commissioner of Food and Drugs Scott Gottlieb was on the Hill last week to testify on several matters under his agency’s jurisdiction, but also spent time fielding questions regarding the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The island is home to numerous pharmaceutical-manufacturing facilities, many of which could be without commercial power for months. Plants that experienced only minor damage are currently operating on generator power, and workers are facing transportation difficulties in getting to work. Questions also remain about how to import supplies and export drugs off the island. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that it has been in touch with all the pharmaceutical firms affected by the storm, and is working with individual companies to troubleshoot and develop a contingency plan. The agency has also compiled a list of 40 products for which a potential shortage could have a substantial impact on public health, including 13 drugs produced only in Puerto Rico. Some injectable medicines, biologics, and treatments for HIV and cancer could be affected. 


House Passes Bill Expanding Treatment for Babies with Hearing Loss


The House of Representatives passed S. 652, the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act, by voice vote last week. The legislation will expand access to resources for deaf and hard-of-hearing newborns and young children. It will also increase training for health care professionals to treat these patients and educate their family members. 


House Passes FY18 Budget Resolution


The House of Representatives passed a fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget resolution in a 219-206 vote, with 18 Republicans joining the Democratic caucus in voting against the measure. In keeping with the FY18 spending bills already passed by the House, the resolution increases defense spending by $72 billion while cutting nondefense spending by $5 billion. The budget resolution also includes reconciliation instructions for the Republican tax reform plan. 


IPAB Advances in the House, Senate Budget


The House Ways and Means Committee approved H.R. 849, the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act of 2017, last week. The bill would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) and was passed by a vote of 24-13. Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) has said that House Republicans are working to attach IPAB repeal to funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This move, however, could complicate reauthorization of CHIP, a program that generally has broad bipartisan support. The Energy and Commerce Committee had planned to vote on the IPAB legislation during its markup of CHIP reauthorization and nine other health bills, but at the end of a marathon markup ended up skipping the vote, citing the fact that the Ways and Means Committee had already approved the bill earlier in the day. 


The Senate Budget Committee also approved by voice vote an amendment from Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) to the Senate fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget resolution that would repeal IPAB. The budget was advanced out of Committee, but must still be passed by the full Senate. A conference committee would then be convened to address the differences between the House- and Senate-passed budget resolutions. 



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