Steering Committee Selects New E&C Democrats

The House Democratic Steering Committee nominated appointments to several committees for the 117th Congress last week, including the Energy and Commerce Committee. The Steering Committee approved the following new members to E&C: Angie Craig (Minn.), Lizzie Fletcher (Texas), Kathleen Rice (N.Y.), Kim Schrier (Wash.), and Lori Trahan (Mass.). The nominations will now be sent to the full Democratic Caucus for approval.

Senators Begin Becerra Nomination Process

Senate panels have begun their vetting of President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet picks, including nominee for Secretary of the HHS Xavier Becerra. The Senate Finance Committee has sent its questionnaire to the HHS nominee, and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) – met with Becerra virtually last week. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic was the focus of their conversation, but Sen. Wyden also discussed the need to lower drug prices with the HHS nominee.

Clyburn Probes Pfizer Vaccine Procurement

House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chair Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) is asking White House officials whether the U.S. government opted against purchasing additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine. According to a New York Times report, the federal government chose to forego the opportunity to purchase up to 500 million additional doses of its vaccine earlier this year. The panel’s letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Department of Defense (DOD) Acting Secretary Christopher Miller requests a response and a briefing by December 23, 2020.

Krishnamoorthi Requests Details on Navarro Contracts

House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Chair Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) is demanding that White House Trade Czar Peter Navarro provide any information on pandemic-related government contracts in which he played a role. Krishnamoorthi argues that Navarro’s involvement in ventilator procurement resulted in the federal government overpaying by hundreds of millions of dollars. Navarro was the chief negotiator of a $646.7 million ventilator contract with Philips Respironics.

E&C Republicans Praise Regulatory Review Rule

Republican leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to HHS expressing support for a proposed rule that would provide for HHS to review each of its regulations every 10 years, requiring regulations that are more than 10 years old to be reviewed within the first two years of the rule’s enactment. Regulations that are not reviewed during the provided window would expire. “HHS regulations have a real-world impact on jobs, the quality of life, and the cost of living of the American people. As a matter of good government, it is important that regulations are monitored to find out if they are actually achieving their projected benefits. The proposed rule would incentivize HHS to conduct retrospective regulatory reviews to ensure regulations are delivering the projected benefits rather than measuring the effectiveness of the implementation of the regulation,” the members write. The letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar was signed by Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-Ore.), incoming ranking member for the 117th Congress Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Health Subcommittee Chair Michael Burgess (R-Texas), and Oversight and Investigations Chair Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.).

NIH Aims to Curb Foreign Influence in Research

According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) plans to amend its regulations and procedures to require biomedical researchers to disclose non-financial conflicts of interest with the goal of curbing foreign influences. The NIH has identified 455 researchers of possible concern and has worked with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate six criminal cases. These cases include scientists who failed to disclose foreign ties, those who recreated findings from their U.S. research in labs in other countries, or people who stole confidential grant applications during the peer review process.

Provider Relief Fund Phase 3 General Distribution

On December 16, HHS announced the Phase 3 General allocation distribution of the Provider Relief Fund (PRF). While the original allocation was for $20 billion, HHS increased the total to $24.5 billion so that all health care providers could receive “up to 88 percent of their reported losses,” taking into account prior distributions. According to HHS, distribution of the additional funding to 70,000 providers began immediately and will continue through January. As detailed within the application instructions, all providers receiving more than $10,000 are subject to key reporting requirements, with the first deadline for reporting February 15, 2021. For the updated reporting elements, visit here, along with a summary of those requirements here. In addition, as noted within the reporting requirements document, all providers that expend more than $750,000 in Federal funds (including PRF and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds) will be subject to additional audit requirements. For additional information, visit the Reporting Requirements and Auditing page and read the Auditing and Reporting Requirements FAQs. More information related to this program can be found on the PRF website.

Becerra and State AGs Comment On 340B

California attorney general and President-elect Biden’s nominee for U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra has sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar regarding disputes between providers and pharmaceutical manufactures participating in the 340B drug discount program. The letter was signed by 28 other state AGs. “Drug manufacturers are, without justification, flouting discounted pricing requirements for low-income patients and/or unreasonably conditioning 340B pricing on data demands,” the letter states. “Each day that drug manufacturers violate their statutory obligations, vulnerable patients and their health care centers are deprived of the essential health care resources that Congress intended to provide.” The letter urges HHS to use its authority and any available measures, including imposition of civil penalties, to hold drug manufacturers in violation of the law directly accountable.

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