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 - MAY 3, 2021


Biden Delivers First Address to Congress, Unveils American Families Plan


In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Joe Biden struck a positive tone in outlining a vision for the nation’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. While health care issues were not a focus of the speech, the President encouraged Americans to get vaccinated and stated that the U.S. “will become an arsenal of vaccines for other countries” as the nation’s own vaccine supply grows to meet domestic demand. The President discussed drug pricing, expressing support for direct negotiation in the Medicare program and urging Congress to act to cut drug prices this year. He suggested that savings could be put toward strengthening the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without spending additional taxpayer money. He also endorsed the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) during his speech. The agency would be housed within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and charged with developing breakthrough treatments to prevent, detect, and treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer.

President Biden went on to unveil his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan during his address on Wednesday night. The antipoverty package, which combines $1 trillion in spending with $800 billion in tax cuts and credits for middle- and lower-income families, would be funded in part by tax increases on wealthy Americans. It is focused on education, support for children and families, and tax reform, but also contains several health care-related provisions. The American Families Plan would create a $225 billion national paid family and medical leave program and make permanent ACA premium reductions passed through the American Rescue Plan. It would also make investments in maternal health and veteran health care services. The administration notes in its fact sheet that the President has a plan to further build on the ACA and lower prescription drug costs

through Medicare price negotiation, the creation of a public option, allowing Medicare enrollment at age 60, and closing the Medicaid coverage gap. These provisions, however, are expected to be advanced separately from the American Families Plan. While progressive Democrats continue to push for Congress to add drug pricing and Medicare-related provisions to the final bill, this could be difficult given Democrats’ narrow margins in each chamber and no signs that Republicans will support the initiative.


Senate Passes Extension of Fentanyl Ban


The Senate passed an extension (H.R. 2630) of the current ban on fentanyl analogues that is scheduled to expire on May 6. The Extending Temporary Emergency Scheduling of Fentanyl Analogues Act, which was passed by voice vote, will allow the government to continue to classify fentanyl-like substances as Schedule I controlled substances through October 22, 2021. The bill previously passed the House by voice vote and will now be sent to the President’s desk for his signature. The White House has expressed support for an extension to provide time to draft a broader overhaul of the drug policy.


Congressional Schedule


Congress currently stands in recess. The Senate will resume consideration of the nomination of Andrea Palm to serve as Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services when the chamber returns on May 10.


HELP Announces Effort to Improve Preparedness System


Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-N.C.) have sent a Dear Colleague letter detailing their plans to revamp the nation’s pandemic preparedness system. The lawmakers outlined their intention to work on bipartisan, consensus legislative proposals including:

  • Strategies for strengthening and modernizing federal public health and medical preparedness and response systems and programs to better support states, localities, and Tribes;
  • Ensuring sufficient public health and medical capacity to continue providing critical services to at-risk populations;
  • Strengthening readiness within the medical countermeasure enterprise to ensure that countermeasures can be rapidly
  • identified and advanced through clinical development and manufacturing and appropriately deployed and distributed when a new public health threat is identified;
  • Modernizing the development of medical countermeasures to address public health threats; and
  • Improving and securing the supply chain for the U.S.’s critical medical supplies needed to swiftly address public health threats.


Top Senate Appropriator Releases Earmark Proposal


Senate Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has released his plan to reverse the decade-long ban on earmarks. The proposal is largely in line with reforms agreed to by both Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives. The total amount of money for congressionally-directed spending would be capped at 1% of discretionary spending, and no money could be appropriated to for-profit entities or to the benefit of members or their immediate families. Senators would also be required to publicly post their earmark requests online and the requests will be audited by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Unlike the House plan, the Senate would not limit the total number of requests each lawmaker can make.



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BRIEFING ARCHIVE


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 +  2018