POLICY BRIEFINGS


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.


THIS WEEK'S BRIEFING - NOVEMBER 11, 2019


Pelosi Pushes Vote on Drug Pricing to December


A vote on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s drug pricing package (H.R. 3) will be delayed until the first week of December, according to a senior Democratic aide. Democratic leadership had planned to begin consideration of the bill before Thanksgiving but will instead await the release of a full score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which will not be complete for another two weeks. Lawmakers must also still reconcile the differences between the three versions of the bill marked up by the committees of jurisdiction. While the legislation is expected to pass the House of Representatives, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that he will not bring it for a vote before the Senate, and an anonymous White House official characterized Pelosi’s plan as “unworkable” in comments last week.

Although the White House has stated that it is still in talks with the Speaker’s office, it continues to push for the advancement of the bipartisan drug pricing bill passed by the Senate Finance Committee earlier this year. Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) stated last week that the President supports his package to lower the cost of prescription drugs, including a measure to penalize pharmaceutical manufacturers whose prices rise faster than inflation. Many Senate Republicans have been reluctant to endorse the provision, which some have likened to a government price control. Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) plan to file a new bill soon following ongoing discussions with the White House and Senate colleagues in the hopes of garnering additional Republican support for the bill. While it is still unclear what the revisions will entail, Grassley has previously discussed making changes to the drug rebate system, and Wyden has previously introduced standalone legislation on the topic. White House Domestic Policy Council Chief Joe Grogan, however, recently cast doubt on the possibility of including a policy to address the issue of drug rebates. During an Alliance for Health Policy event last week, Grogan stated that policymakers are out of time to develop any new such measures.


Senators Push for Expedited Passage of Bipartisan Drug Pricing Bills


Two bipartisan pairs of lawmakers were unsuccessful in attempting to pass their drug pricing bills by unanimous consent last week. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) pushed their legislation (S. 1416) that would empower the federal government to prevent brand manufacturers from using the patent system to block generic competition from coming to market, while Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sought to pass a bill (S. 1437) that would require drug makers to disclose the cost of their products in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising. According to Sen. Cornyn, Democratic leadership is withholding support for the patent bill until an agreement on broader efforts to reduce drug prices can be reached. Meanwhile, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is blocking Sen. Durbin’s DTC advertising legislation because the latest bill has changed since being passed by the Senate last year and has not been vetted through the committee process. Sen. Toomey has expressed concern about the bill’s potential to mislead consumers or deter them from seeking care but has stated that he does not object to a recorded roll call vote on the legislation. Some Democrats have also expressed broader concerns about passing the health bills without allowing for amendments and an open debate. Sens. Cornyn and Blumenthal plan to ask again to pass their legislation by unanimous consent this week.


HELP to Consider FDA Commissioner Nominee Nov. 20


Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has offered details on the timing to consider the nomination of Texas oncologist Stephen Hahn, MD to be Commissioner of Food and Drugs, stating last week that the Senate should be able to schedule a vote on his confirmation in December. A hearing to consider his nomination has been scheduled before the HELP panel on November 20. In related news, concerns were raised by HELP Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) last week regarding the appointment of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary Brett Giroir as acting FDA commissioner, due to Giroir’s prior efforts to curtail fetal tissue research.



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