Energy and Commerce Advances Nine Public Health Bills

During a lengthy markup in which H.R. 3921, the HEALTHY KIDS Act reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and H.R. 3922, the Community Health and Medical Professionals Improve Our Nation (CHAMPION) Act reauthorizing community health centers funding were considered, the House Energy and Commerce Committee also advanced seven additional public health bills. The Committee passed the following bills by voice vote:

  • H.R. 1148, the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine Act of 2017, to expand the ability of patients presenting at hospitals or at mobile stroke units to receive a Medicare reimbursed neurological consult via telemedicine.
  • H.R. 2465, the Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act of 2017, to make coverage of speech generating devices under “routinely purchased durable medical equipment” permanent under the Medicare program. 
  • H.R. 2557, the Prostate Cancer Misdiagnosis Elimination Act of 2017, to provide for coverage of DNA Specimen Provenance Assay (DPSA) testing for prostate cancer. 
  • H.R. 3120, to reduce the volume of future electronic health record-related significant hardship requests, would amend the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act to remove the mandate that meaningful use standards become more stringent over time and allows the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to be more deliberative in such evaluations. 
  • H.R. 3245, the Medicare Civil and Criminal Penalties Act, to update both penalties within the Medicare program, many of which have not been updated in 20 years. 
  • H.R. 3263, to extend the Medicare Independence at home Medical Practice Demonstration program, would provide a home-based primary care benefit to high-need Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions, ideally allowing them to avoid unnecessary hospitalizations, ER visits, and nursing home use, for two additional years. 
  • H.R. 3271, the Protecting Access to Diabetes Supplies Act of 2017, would address several issues beneficiaries have reported facing under the competitive bidding program regarding Diabetes Test Strips (DTS). Among them include: providing enhanced reporting that will aid Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in ensuring beneficiaries are receiving the diabetic testing supplies they need to manage their condition.  

Congressman Tim Murphy to Resign

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) announced plans to resign from Congress effective October 21. Murphy, a pro-life Republican, faces allegations that he asked the woman with whom he had an affair to terminate a pregnancy. Murphy is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. 

Senate Confirms Deputy HHS Secretary

The Senate has confirmed Eric Hargan to be Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) by a vote of 57-38. Sens. Carper (D-Del.), Coons (D-Del.), Donnelly (D-Ind.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Heitkamp (D-N.D.), King (I-Maine), Manchin (D-W.V.), and McCaskill (D-Mo.) voted in support of his confirmation. Hargan now holds the highest-level confirmed position in the Department following Secretary Price’s resignation. Hargan previously worked as Deputy General Counsel, Principal Associate Deputy Secretary, and Acting Deputy Secretary at HHS between 2003- 2007. He more recently served on the President’s transition team. Hargan could end up named as acting secretary until a replacement for Price is confirmed. 

Patterson to Serve as Acting DEA Administrator

Robert Patterson has been named Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In his statement announcing the decision, Attorney General Jeff Sessions noted the important role Patterson will play in stemming the opioid abuse epidemic. Patterson began his career with DEA in 1988, and has served in a variety of positions within the agency including Principal Deputy Administrator, Chief Inspector, and Assistant Special Agent in Charge. He replaces Chuck Rosenberg, who resigned at the end of last month. 

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