POLICY BRIEFINGS


House Democratic Plan to Restore Earmarks


Democrats in the House of Representatives have unveiled a plan to restore earmarks, now termed “Community Project Funding,” ending a decade-long ban on the practice. The proposal, which was released by Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), would allow the inclusion of money in annual spending bills to benefit specific projects. The amount of money spent on earmarks would be capped at one percent of discretionary spending, lawmakers would only be permitted to submit 10 project requests, at most, along with evidence to justify their requests from their communities, and funds cannot flow to for-profit recipients. All requests would be posted online, with earmarks to be audited by a federal watchdog. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has already announced that lawmakers will be allowed to include earmarks in the next highway bill. A hearing will be held in April for panel members to discuss their policy priorities, ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline to pass surface transportation reauthorization legislation. The Senate is still working on its own plan to revive congressionally-directed spending.


Select COVID Subcommittee to Investigate One Medical


The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis has launched an investigation into One Medical following allegations that the company intentionally distributed coronavirus vaccines to ineligible individuals. Chairman Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) stated that he is “deeply concerned that medical providers’ refusal to adhere to vaccination prioritization guidelines and the intentional diversion of doses to individuals in lower priority groups may cost more American lives and delay or even derail containment of the virus across the country.” He requests documents and information from the company by March 15, 2021.


Lawmakers Request Update to Ventilation Guidance


Top congressional committee leaders in the House of Representatives have sent a letter urging the Biden administration to update ventilation and respiratory protection guidance and standards to reduce aerosol transmission of COVID-19. The lawmakers noted recent findings indicating that existing guidance may not be extensive enough to protect individuals at greatest risk of exposure through aerosol transmission. The letter was sent by Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), and Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Chairman Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The members suggest that the Defense Production Act (DPA) be invoked to address any potential shortages of respiratory protection.


Biden Personnel Update


President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra will be considered by the full Senate after the Finance Committee split the vote along party lines on his nomination 14-14. Given the split vote, Becerra’s nomination will now receive four hours of debate and will require a majority vote by the Senate before proceeding for a final vote on the floor. During his confirmation hearing, Republican panel members raised concerns about Becerra’s stance on abortion and his qualifications to lead the large health department.

The Biden administration announced last week that it has withdrawn the nomination of Neera Tanden to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Shalanda Young, nominee for OMB deputy director, is now under consideration for the position.

While Janet Woodcock previously appeared to be a frontrunner for Commissioner of Food and Drugs, new reports indicate that the administration has started to vet other candidates for the job. Woodcock has been at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1986 and was selected to serve as acting commissioner at the start of the Biden administration. She has faced criticism, however, from some congressional Democrats for her role in the approval of painkillers that led to the opioid epidemic. Nevertheless, Woodcock would be expected to pick up support from Senate Republicans should she be nominated.


GAO Report on Foreign Drug Inspections


The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report last week finding that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) surveillance of foreign pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities. The GAO found that the FDA missed 1,000 planned inspections in the year ending Sept. 30. Approximately 40% of drug facilities for the U.S. are located in China or India, with 74% of facilities that make active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) located abroad and 52% of those facilities that make finished drugs for the U.S. market located in foreign countries. The report found that the FDA maintained its drug approval goals by relying on records requests and drug sampling, but GAO states that these are not good substitutes for direct inspections. The report was released ahead of a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee on the subject of foreign drug inspections scheduled to take place on March 9.


Businesses Urge Extension of PPP


Business groups are pressing the administration to extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) beyond its scheduled expiration on March 31. Hundreds of groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to Senate leadership requesting that lawmakers extend the PPP through 2021. The change does not qualify for inclusion in the ongoing reconciliation process for the American Rescue Plan Act.


HRSA Updates COVID Uninsured Program


The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has updated its COVID-19 uninsured program to include claims information related to vaccine administration. The program provides claims reimbursement to health care providers for COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccination of uninsured individuals. According to the latest data, HRSA has reimbursed over $2 billion in testing claims, $2 billion in treatment claims, and $750 thousand in vaccine administration claims as of March 3, 2021.


CMS Releases Data on Latest SEP


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has released data on the 2021 Marketplace special enrollment period (SEP), opened by the Biden administration in response to the ongoing pandemic. More than 206,000 Americans signed up for coverage in the first two weeks of the HealthCare.gov SEP, which launched on Feb. 15. CMS plans to release a report on new plan selections for each month of the 2021 SEP, which ends on May 15. Additional details on the new plan selections can be found in CMS’ fact sheet.


Hart Health Strategies COVID-19 Resources


Hart Health Strategies Inc. continues to update the following resources related to the coronavirus pandemic. Please remember to clear your cache to ensure you download the most recent documents.


Upcoming Congressional Committee Activity


Senate HELP Committee hearing “Examining Our COVID-19 Response: An Update from the Frontlines;” 10:00 a.m., March 9

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies hearing “FDA’s Foreign Drug Inspections Program;” 10:00 a.m., March 9

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies hearing “Challenges Facing Veterans in Accessing Fertility Services;” 10:00 a.m., March 9

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee markup of H.R. 144, the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act; 10:00 a.m., March 9

House Small Business Committee hearing “The Next Steps for the Paycheck Protection Program;” 10:00 a.m., March 10 House Agriculture Committee hearing “A Look at Food Insecurity in America;” 9:00 a.m., March 11

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies hearing “COVID-19 and the Mental Health and Substance Use Crises;” 10:00 a.m., March 11

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing “The Science Behind Impacts of the Climate Crisis;” 11:00 a.m., March 12

House Armed Services Committee hearing “Final Recommendations of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence;” 11:00 a.m., March 12

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies hearing “VA Specialty Healthcare: Oversight of Women’s Health, Mental Health, and Suicide Prevention, Whole Health and Homelessness;” 11:30 a.m., March 12

House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health hearing “Beyond Deborah Sampson: Improving Healthcare for America’s Women Veterans in the 117th Congress;” 2:30 p.m., March 18



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SERVICES




BRIEFING ARCHIVE


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