Trump Administration to Expand Availability of Short-Term Health Plans

The Trump administration has issued regulations that will allow individuals to purchase health care insurance plans that don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) consumer protections. The final rule will allow the sale of shortterm limited-duration plans for a 12-month coverage period, with the option of renewal for up to 36 months. The plans typically don’t cover individuals with pre-existing conditions and do not have to cover the comprehensive benefits required by Obamacare. The administration argues that these plans will serve as affordable alternatives for people who don’t qualify for subsidies in the ACA’s individual market, and the move has been praised by Republican lawmakers as an alternative to the ACA’s one-size-fits-all approach. Opponents of the rule believe that the short-term plans will attract healthier individuals and drive up costs for less healthy patients in the ACA-compliant market. Senate Democrats have stated that they plan to force a vote on a measure that would overturn the rule. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) plans to introduce the resolution of disapproval. The measure would require 51 votes to pass, which means that a united Democratic caucus would need one Republican to vote in support of the proposal in the absence of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Trump Taps Science Advisor; OMB Issues R&D Memo

President Trump announced last week that he has tapped Kelvin Droegemeier, an Oklahoma meteorologist, as his first director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The post has been vacant since January 2017. Droegemeier previously served on the National Science Board under both Barack Obama and George W. Bush. OSTP shapes the federal government’s overall R&D budget, and is involved in the formation of the science and technology agenda that spans all relevant federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The position requires Senate confirmation.

In related news, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a memo last week outlining federal research and development priorities for fiscal year (FY) 2020. The memo is intended to assist agencies with their 2020 budget submissions. OMB specifically highlights the importance of basic medical research, particularly for personalized medicine, and urges NIH to continue such work that is already underway at the agency.

E&C Requests Information on Opioid Crisis from Manufacturers

Bipartisan leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have written to three pharmaceutical companies regarding their role in the opioid epidemic. Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Vice Ranking Member Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Oversight Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), and Oversight Vice Chairman Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) ask Insys Therapeutics, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, and Perdue Pharma questions about how they each marketed their opioid products and how they responded when they became aware of their products being abused. The lawmakers also request that the companies participate in a briefing with the committee. The letters request similar information and documents in addition to making requests that are unique to each manufacturer.

E&C Republicans Continue Examination of 340B

Republican leadership on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have written to nine contract pharmacies participating in the 340B Drug Pricing Program regarding the growth and oversight of 340B. The lawmakers request information on contracting practices, the distance between covered entities and contract pharmacies, to what degree contract pharmacies prevent duplicate discounts and diversion, and whether they ensure low-income patients do not experience high drug costs despite the program discount. The letter was signed by Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess (R-Texas), and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.). Responses are requested by August 15.

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