Lawmakers Launch Comprehensive Care Caucus

Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) announced the launch of the Comprehensive Care Caucus last week. The caucus aims to raise awareness about the benefits of palliative care, address caregiver-specific issues, and improve access to palliative care.

Dems Continue Inquiry Into Religious Conscience Protections Rule

Democratic leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Education and Labor Committee, Oversight and Reform Committee, and Senate HELP Committee have written to HHS Secretary Alex Azar regarding the administration’s recent conscience protections rule which would expand religious protections for health workers. The lawmakers ask for information regarding the policy’s potentially discriminatory impact on patients, and what the Department would do to mitigate those effects. They request a response from HHS by Aug. 15.

Senators Urge Caution on FCC Rural Health Program

Abipartisan group of senators is requesting that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) delay changes to the Rural Health Care Program, which subsidizes rural health care providers’ broadband internet connections. The lawmakers express concerns that a recent proposal from the FCC “does not address the need for more funding, set forth the methodology for calculating rural and urban rates, nor provide adequate maps to determine the rural area boundaries needed to determine pricing.”

Lawmakers Release Draft Bill Linking Drug Costs to Federally Funded Research

Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) have released draft legislation that would require pharmaceutical manufacturers to discount products that have benefited from federally-funded research. The bill, which would put price controls on drugs that have patents directly tied to or supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), would only impact future medications. A committee of experts would be created to determine a reasonable price for applicable medicines. Sen. Van Hollen has said that the legislation could apply to as much as a quarter of new drugs.

HHS Personnel Update

Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) George Sigounas is expected to soon depart from his position in the administration. Sigounas is a longtime cancer researcher who has served as the director of HRSA since May 2017. Brian LeClair, former Minnesota state senator, currently serves as HRSA’s principle deputy administrator.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings and Markups

Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights oversight hearing to examine enforcement of the antitrust laws; 2:30 p.m., 226 Dirksen Bldg.; September 17

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