Ways and Means Push Action on Hospice Oversight, Air Ambulance Surprise Billing

House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) have sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requesting information on the agency’s work to address recent reports from the HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of deficiencies in the quality of hospice care. The OIG’s findings indicated that 87 percent of hospices had at least one care deficiency between 2012 and 2016, and 20 percent had at least one serious deficiency, meaning that the health and safety of a beneficiary were in jeopardy or the hospice was limited in its capacity to deliver adequate care. The report also found that CMS lacks sufficient reporting and enforcement requirements. The lawmakers urge CMS to address the recommendations contained in the OIG’s report, and request that CMS provide information on its data collection and reporting practices; oversight of patient harm; plans to improve the process for beneficiaries and caregivers to make complaints; and strategies to develop better measures for hospice quality and outcomes. The lawmakers request a response before August 15.
Ways and Means leadership also sent a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT), urging Secretary Elaine Chao to convene the Air Ambulance and Patient Billing (AAPB) Advisory Committee. The task force was created by the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, and the DOT was charged with establishing the group within 60 days of enactment of the law. The purpose of the task force is to make recommendations to protect patients of air ambulance transports from receiving high-cost bills. The DOT has yet to take any action in regard to the task force except to issue a call for potential membership, which had deadline of January 15.

E&C Makes Inquiries Into Possible Heparin Shortages, Environmental Health at the CDC

Bipartisan leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have written to Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs Ned Sharpless to request briefings on potential shortages in the U.S. supply of heparin. Heparin, which is the only anticoagulant used for open-heart surgeries and kidney dialysis, is derived from animal sources. The lawmakers raise concerns about the impact of the current outbreak of African swine fever in China’s pig population on heparin supply in the U.S. Nearly 80 percent of the world’s heparin ingredient supply is made in China. The letter asks how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is monitoring the adequacy of the U.S. heparin supply, and what the agency’s plans are to address a potential shortage and the threat of “economically-motivated adulteration.”
Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) has requested a briefing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the agency’s environmental health division. Rep. Pallone expresses concerns about recent reports that the CDC’s reorganization of the division could diminish the effectiveness of certain public health programs, including the Climate and Health Program. He requests a briefing from CDC officials on program changes by August 12, 2019.

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