Hart Health Strategies provides a comprehensive policy briefing on a weekly basis. This in-depth health policy briefing is sent out at the beginning of each week. The health policy briefing recaps the previous week and previews the week ahead. It alerts clients to upcoming congressional hearings, newly introduced bills, regulatory announcements, and implementation activity related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and other health laws.


House Passes White House Rescission Request

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3, the Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act by a vote of 210-206. The bill would rescind nearly $15 billion in previously approved government funding as proposed by the Trump administration. The package targets approximately $8 billion from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including rollbacks to unobligated funds within the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The White House had walked back its rescission request earlier in the week, eliminating its proposal to claw back $252 million in unspent funding from the 2015 Ebola outbreak. Democrats and public health groups expressed strong opposition to the proposal, especially in light of the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that has killed 27 people. Previously, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the senate would look at the package after House passage.

House to Begin Consideration of Opioid Proposals This Week

The House of Representatives plans to vote on dozens of bills to combat the opioid epidemic over the next two weeks. Most of the bills are non-controversial and are expected to receive wide bipartisan support on the House’s suspension calendar. The final details are still being worked out, but many of the bills are expected to be combined into a larger package before being sent to the Senate for consideration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that the Senate could take up opioid legislation in August, now that he has decided to cancel the chamber’s scheduled month-long recess. A full list of bills to be considered by the House will be posted here, as they become available.

The Senate Finance Committee plans to mark up its opioid package on Tuesday. The panel will consider the Helping to End Addiction and Lesson (HEAL) Substance Use Disorders Act of 2018, which includes approximately 20 different bills and would encourage states to expand access to family-focused residential treatment programs and telemedicine when treating substance use disorders. It would also require doctors to screen Medicare beneficiaries for opioid misuse and abuse during their annual wellness visits.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) contacted nine online networks, a total of 53 websites, warning them to stop marketing dangerous, unapproved, and misbranded versions of opioid medications. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated that the agency will take action against firms whose websites deliberately break the law. He also noted that the FDA will be taking additional steps in the coming months to crack down on the flow of illegal opioids sold online and shipped through the mail. The agency requests responses within 10 days to inform the FDA what specific actions the companies will take.

Also last week, the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in partnership with the Ad Council and the Truth Initiative debuted four ads targeted at teens and young adults to warn people about the dangers of opioid abuse and raise awareness about the nationwide epidemic of addiction. The ads feature true stories about young people who have struggled with addiction. Facebook, Turner, Amazon, NBC, and Google are expected to donate ad time equivalent to at least $30 million. The White House plans to roll out additional campaigns aimed at other age groups in the future.

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