FDA Appropriations Bill Advances

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Related Agencies approved its fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending bill by voice vote last week. The legislation would increase spending for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the FDA by $1 billion for a total of $24.3 billion in discretionary funding. The FDA would receive $3.3 billion, $184 million more in discretionary funding over FY 2019.

Lawmakers Request Details on Rates of Maternal Mortality

Bipartisan leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee have written to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller General Gene Dodaro requesting information to better understand the nation’s high rate of maternal mortality and the federal government’s efforts to address it. Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) ask HHS to provide a comprehensive review of programs and models that combat maternal mortality. They urge the GAO to compile a report detailing the extent of gaps in currently reported maternal mortality data, key inconsistencies in state data reporting, the degree to which such inconsistencies apply to measures of severe maternal morbidity, and the level of federal support necessary to correct them.

New MedPAC, MACPAC Commissioners Announced

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has announced the appointment of two new members to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC): Lawrence Casalino, MD, PhD, Livingston Professor of Public Health and Chief of the Division of Healthcare Policy and Economics in the Weill Cornell Department of Healthcare Policy and Research, and Amol Navathe, MD, PHD, co-Director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute and Associate Director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Their terms will expire in April 2022. The newly appointed MedPAC vice-chair will be Paul Ginsburg, PhD.

The GAO also announced the new members that will be joining the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC): Tricia Brooks of Georgetown University and Thomas Barker of Foley Hoag. Melanie Bella, Cityblock Health, was named the new MACPAC chair, while Charles Miligan, UnitedHealthcare, will serve as vice-chair.

Health Care Organizations Oppose WH Nondiscrimination Rule

A group of more than 30 health professional associations wrote to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar in opposition of the Department’s plans to weaken nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals. Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act protects LGBTQ populations’ access to health care and health coverage and clarifies that discrimination based on gender identity and sex stereotyping is prohibited in health care coverage and access. HHS has proposed to remove the explicit protections from discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity. The organizations underscore the continued stigma and discrimination facing sexual and gender minorities and express opposition to any modifications to regulation that would jeopardize the health and well-being of LGBTQ populations.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings and Markups

House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Technology Modernization hearing “Modernizing Health Records for Servicemembers and Veterans: The Contractor Perspective;” 2:00 p.m., 210 Capitol Bldg.; June 4

House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations hearing “Eradicating Ebola: Building on Lessons Learned and Medical Advancements;” 2:00 p.m., place TBD; June 4

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