OSHA Suspends Implementation of Vaccine ETS

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has granted a motion to stay the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which would require all private employers with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccines or weekly testing for all personnel. In response, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending further developments in the litigation. The case stems from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Utah, and South Carolina, filing a lawsuit against the Biden administration over the vaccine mandate, requesting a preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to stop the mandate from being enforced. The lawsuit also asks that the mandate be declared unlawful. The White House is urging businesses to continue implementing the guidance for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, noting its confidence that it has the authority to mandate vaccination for workers to stop the spread of COVID-19. The OSHA suspension does not affect a related vaccine mandate from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for health care workers.

Republican senators led by Mike Braun (R-Ind.) have formally filed a challenge against the OSHA ETS under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). A floor vote on the resolution of disapproval of the President’s vaccine mandate could happen as soon as early December. The effort is expected to fail in the Democratic-controlled Congress.

Senators Call for 9/11-Like COVID Commission

A bipartisan group of senators wrote Senate leadership urging the inclusion of a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act to establish a national commission on the coronavirus pandemic. They argue that the commission, which would resemble the 9/11 Commission, is necessary to better understand the vulnerabilities of the nation’s health care system and to improve pandemic preparedness for future public health crises. Earlier this month, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) introduced S. 3203, the National Commission on the COVID-19 Pandemic Act, which is endorsed by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

COVID Panel Subpoenas Trump Trade Adviser

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis is subpoenaing former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro. Navarro has failed to respond to the panel’s requests for documents relating to decision-making within the Trump administration during the coronavirus pandemic. Chair Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) has raised concerns about Navarro’s role in procurement and the award of government contracts. The committee has already issued a subpoena to Steven Hatfill, former adviser to Navarro.

Oversight Republicans Consider Impact of PBMs

Republicans on the House Oversight and Investigations Committee hosted a forum last week titled “Reviewing the Role of PBMs in Pharmaceutical Markets” on the impact of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) in pharmaceutical markets with experts, including pharmacists, researchers, a practicing physician, and a PBM representative. During the forum, Republican lawmakers argued that PBMs play a role in the rising cost of drugs in the U.S. and that the industry is over-consolidated. Committee Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) stated that if Republicans retake the majority in the House, he expects the party to act on PBM reform. He also noted that a report summarizing the panel and outlining potential next steps would be forthcoming.

Provider Relief Fund Reporting Grace Period Concludes Nov. 30

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is reminding stakeholders that the 60-day grace period for Provider Relief Fund (PRF) reporting period 1 ends on November 30, 2021. Providers with outstanding reporting requirements should go to the PRF Reporting Portal and submit their report on use of funds. Providers who fail to meet this deadline will be required to return their PRF payments by December 30, 2021. Additional guidance can be found in the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Returning Funds Fact Sheet and the PRF Reporting Resources webpage.

All Adults Now Eligible for Pfizer/Moderna Boosters

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expanded the emergency use authorization (EUA) of the PfizerBioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to include individuals 18 years of age and older. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky signed off on the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) endorsement of expanding booster shot eligibility. The boosters, which are the same dosage strength as the other doses in the series, should be administered at least six months after completion of the primary series.

FCC Approves 988 for Suicide Prevention

New action from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will allow Americans to text 988 to access the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The move is intended to broaden access to mental health and crisis counseling services for at-risk communities, like youth and people with disabilities. Texting providers will be required to route messages sent to 988 to the Lifeline’s number by July 16, 2022. During the transition, the FCC suggests continuing to contact the network at 1-800-273-8255.

Recently Introduced Health Legislation

H.R.5963 — To provide for improvements in the reimbursement of eligible health care providers through the Provider Relief Fund, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Spanberger, Abigail Davis [D-VA-7]; Committees: House - Energy and Commerce; Ways and Means

H.R.5962 — To manage supply chain risk through counterintelligence training, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Neguse, Joe [D-CO-2]; Committees: House - Oversight and Reform

H.R.5950 — To amend the Controlled Substances Act to increase the number of days before which certain controlled substances for maintenance or detoxification treatment must be administered, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Dean, Madeleine [D-PA-4]; Committees: House - Energy and Commerce; Judiciary

H.Res.790 — Expressing support for the designation of November, 2021 as “Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month”. Sponsor: Rep. Carson, Andre [D-IN-7]; Committees: House - Energy and Commerce; Armed Services

S.3208 — A bill to establish the Office of Supply Chain Resiliency within the Department of Commerce to provide expansion support to companies and supply chains in the United States that are vulnerable to shortages and price increases, and for other purposes; Sponsor: Sen. Baldwin, Tammy [D-WI]; Committees: Senate - Commerce, Science, and Transportation

H.R.5967 — To ensure that institutions of higher education with COVID-19 vaccination requirements provide an opportunity for religious exemption from such requirements, and for other purposes; Sponsor: Rep. Norman, Ralph [RSC-5]; Committees: House - Education and Labor

H.R.5977 — To amend the controlled substances Act regarding marihuana, and for other purposes; Sponsor: Rep. Mace, Nancy [R-SC-1]; Committees: House - Judiciary; Energy and Commerce; Natural Resources; Agriculture; Transportation and Infrastructure; Armed Services; Ways and Means; Small Business; Veterans’ Affairs; Oversight and Reform; Education and Labor; Foreign Affairs

H.R.5978 — To exempt Federal employees and contractors that are critical infrastructure workers from Federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates, and for other purposes; Sponsor: Rep. Newhouse, Dan [R-WA-4]; Committees: House - Oversight and Reform

H.R.5981 — To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to permanently extend the exemption for telehealth services from certain high deductible health plan rules; Sponsor: Rep. Steel, Michelle [R-CA-48]; Committees: House - Ways and Means

H.R.5983 — To expand the eligibility of veterans for hospital care and medical services provided by non-Department of Veterans Affairs medical providers under the Veterans Choice Program; Sponsor: Rep. Carl, Jerry L. [R-AL-1]; Committees: House - Veterans’ Affairs

H.R.5986 — To improve men’s health initiatives, and for other purposes; Sponsor: Rep. Payne, Donald M., Jr. [D-NJ-10]; Committees: House - Energy and Commerce

H.R.5987 — To amend the Toxic Substances Control Act with respect to the PFAS data call, and for other purposes; Sponsor: Rep. Ross, Deborah K. [D-NC-2]; Committees: House - Energy and Commerce

H.R.5989 — To require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct a demonstration program to genetic and genomic testing for certain children, to provide for a study by the National Academy of Medicine on the use of such testing to improve health care, and for other purposes; Committees: House - Energy and Commerce; Ways and Means

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