Bipartisan Request for Greater CMMI Transparency

Ways and Means Committee leadership have sent a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma requesting more transparency from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). The bipartisan letter from Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) asks Verma to reform CMMI processes to incorporate greater opportunity for public input as different delivery system and payment models are developed. The lawmakers ask for details on what models are under active consideration by the agency, and for a description of activities that CMS and CMMI intend to engage in to promote transparency and engage Congress, stakeholders, Medicare beneficiaries, and the public prior to each model being finalized. Chairman Neal has stated that a review of CMMI will be a priority for the committee this year. Ranking Member Brady hopes the panel will examine maternal mortality and health care fraud on a bipartisan basis as well.

Budget Chairman Requests Single-Payer CBO Report

House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) has written to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) asking the agency to prepare a report on the administration, enrollment, coverage, and cost-sharing aspects of a singlepayer health care system. “Members of Congress developing proposals to establish a single-payer system will face many important decisions that could have major implications for federal spending, national health care spending, and access to care,” the letter states. Yarmuth asks CBO to consider other public health programs, cost-containment, how rates would be set, and how to pay for the system.

NIH Responds to Research Integrity Concerns

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has responded to a request from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) regarding allegations of foreign influence on NIH-funded research. Lawrence Tabak, of NIH’s Intramural Research Program, outlines the NIH’s process for conducting background checks on employees, contractors, and affiliates, and the enforcement mechanisms the agency has at its disposal. Grassley responded that the letter left many of his initial questions unanswered, including how much money is dedicated to oversight functions and reporting mechanisms to protect the integrity of research at the NIH. The letter had indicated that this figure is difficult to quantify because it is only one component of the agency’s compliance responsibilities, but that the NIH would continue to work with the senator to address his concerns.

House Dems Push for Prioritization of Opioid Crisis

More than 60 Democrats have signed a letter urging House leadership to make countering the opioid epidemic a priority for the 116th Congress. “At a time when our state and local partners are begging for federal assistance to combat the opioid crisis in their communities,” the letter states, “Congress must answer the call through increased resources, creative solutions, and with more legislative staff.” The signatories characterize themselves as members from states most impacted by the crisis.

Democratic Health Leaders Request Info on Short-Term Plans

Democratic health leaders have sent a letter to administration officials to reiterate a request for information on the White House plan to expand the availability of short-term health insurance plans. The lawmakers cite two outstanding letters from last year and request additional information on how the administration developed its final rulemaking. “We believe allowing for renewal or extension of short-term policies for up to 36 months is contrary to law, and that the creation of an entirely unregulated parallel market competing against the market for Qualified Health Plans goes against Congressional intent in enacting the comprehensive consumer protections embodied in the Affordable Care Act,” the lawmakers wrote. The letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney was signed by Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Senate Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

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