House Oversight to Continue Health Investigations Under Acting Chair Carolyn Maloney

Acting Chair of the House Oversight Committee Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) has vowed to continue the panel’s investigations into a number of health issues that were launched by the late Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). During the 116th Congress, Chairman Cummings opened probes into the high cost of prescription drugs, the treatment of migrants at the nation’s borders, the White House’s decision to not defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in court, and changes made by HHS to federal family planning programs. Rep. Maloney plans to seek the top panel spot on a permanent basis, but several other committee members are also expected to launch bids to succeed Cummings as chair. Candidates for the gavel will make their case before the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which will make a recommendation to the full House Democratic caucus.

Senate Begins Consideration of Appropriations Legislation

This week, the Senate will continue work this week on a package of four fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending bills (H.R. 3055). The legislation would fund Agriculture-Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Lawmakers are optimistic that the package, which contains relatively noncontroversial measures, will pass, making it the first appropriations legislation to be passed by the Senate for FY 2020. The current continuing resolution (CR) expires on November 21.

Lawmakers Continue Work on Cures 2.0

According to remarks from several lawmakers last week, follow-up legislation to the 21st Century Cures Act could be unveiled before the end of the year. Staff for Cures author Fred Upton (R-Mich.) confirmed that their office, along with the office of Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), are following the same process used to draft the 2016 biomedical innovation law, and that they hope to introduce Cures 2.0 in the coming months. The lawmakers are scheduled to speak about their new legislation at a Milken Institute event this week. Such remarks about the timeline for the next version of Cures were also echoed by Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Michael Burgess (R-Texas) last week.

Lawmakers Push for SUPPORT Grant Flexibility

During a meeting with White House officials and First Lady Melania Trump last week, Republican lawmakers asked the administration to increase flexibility for states to use the opioid response grants created by the SUPPORT Act (P.L. 115-271), which was signed into law one year ago, for programs that address addiction to a range of other drugs, such as methamphetamine. According to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), lawmakers also asked the White House to strengthen efforts to halt shipments of fentanyl originating in China.

MACPAC Releases Report on MAT and Utilization Management

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) released a report to Congress last week examining Medicaid utilization management policies for medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The commission found wide variance in the use of practices such as preferred status, prior authorization, step therapy, prescription limits, quantity/dose limits, and lifetime limits across the country and their impact on access to addiction treatment. The Report to Congress: Utilization Management of Medication-Assisted Treatment in Medicaid was mandated by the SUPPORT Act (P.L. 115–271). The report focuses on access to MAT in Arkansas, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia, finding that states employ utilization management practices for medications more frequently than for counseling. Additionally, while there is currently a trend among states to eliminate the use of prior authorization for MAT, states are also increasing their use of quantity and dosing limits.

President to Tap Stephen Hahn as FDA Commissioner

President Trump announced plans to nominate radiation oncologist Stephen Hahn, M.D., chief medical executive at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, as Commissioner of Food and Drugs. If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Hahn would replace acting commissioner Norman Sharpless. An official nomination is expected to be announced this week.

D-H Medical Center, West Health to Open New Geriatric ED

Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) Medical Center has announced plans to partner with nonprofit West Health to establish a new geriatric emergency department aimed at making emergency department (ED) visits easier for individuals over the age of 65 and reducing the need for subsequent hospital admissions. Staff will be trained to better screen the social and medical needs of older patients to improve the management of chronic conditions and health at home. As a rural academic medical center, the D-H initiative will also involve the expanded use of telemedicine and serve as a hub for rural hospitals to connect with geriatric specialists.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings and Markups

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee markup of pending legislation including H.R. 3495, the Improve Well-Being for Veterans Act and H.R. 3530, Improving Confidence in Veterans Care Act; 10:00 a.m., 210 Capitol; October 29

House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing “Safeguarding Pharmaceutical Supply Chains in a Global Economy;” 10:00 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.; October 30

House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health hearing “Native Veterans’ Access to Healthcare;” 10:00 a.m., 210 Capitol Bldg.; October 30

Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care hearing “Medicaid: Compliance with Eligibility Requirements;” 2:00 p.m., 215 Dirksen Bldg.; October 30

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to examine supply chain security, global competitiveness, and 5G; 9:30 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.; October 31

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) markup of S. 1657, Ticks: Identify, Control, and Knockout Act; S. 2619, Healthy Start Reauthorization Act of 2019; S. 1399, Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019; S. 995, Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act of 2019; S. 1130, Scarlett’s Sunshine on Sudden Unexpected Death Act; S. 1608, Promoting Physical Activity for Americans Act; S. 2629, United States Public Health Service Modernization Act of 2019; and S. __, Over-the-Counter Drug Safety, Innovation, and Reform Act of 2019; 10:00 a.m., 430 Dirksen Bldg.; October 31

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